Singapore's factory output jumped 11.9 per cent in November over the same month last year, the fastest pace since March 2014 and better than October's revised 1.3 per cent expansion.
A surprise surge in electronics and biomedical production lifted the headline figure way above private-sector economists' forecast of a 1.6 per cent contraction.
Excluding output from the volatile biomedical cluster, last month's output still grew 6.4 per cent from a year ago, Economic Development Board data showed yesterday.
The pickup in activity closes a choppy year for the economy and is likely to keep Singapore from slipping into a technical recession after contracting 2 per cent in the third quarter compared with the preceding three months, economists said.
Rise in biomedical manufacturing output last month from a year ago.
Growth in electronics output last month from a year earlier.
"Manufacturing's contribution to fourth-quarter growth will be bigger than previously expected and will help push up full-year growth," said CIMB Private Bank economist Song Seng Wun.
Biomedical manufacturing output rose 34.8 per cent last month from a year ago, on the back of a 36.1 per cent rise in drug production, as well as a 30.8 per cent jump in medical technology output driven by higher export demand for medical instruments.
Electronics output - Singapore's biggest manufacturing cluster - grew 24.2 per cent last month from a year earlier, with semiconductor output up 49.6 per cent.
UOB economist Francis Tan noted that the electronics cluster has been on an expansion path since March.
He said: "The semiconductor segment had grown at double-digit rates over the past nine consecutive months already (compared with each month a year ago), signalling a consistent pickup of demand."
Four of Singapore's six manufacturing clusters were in expansion mode last month.
The precision engineering cluster posted a 7.6 per cent rise in activity while the chemicals cluster grew 3.5 per cent from a year ago.
Still, the recovery was not as broad-based as economists would have liked, with general manufacturing output shrinking 0.9 per cent last month from a year earlier.
Transport engineering contracted 14.8 per cent, dragged down by a 23.6 per cent fall in marine and offshore engineering output.
Mr Tan noted: "However optimistic the electronics cluster may be, it is only 27.4 per cent of total manufacturing activities."
But Mr Song was more upbeat.
He said: "Electronics seems on track to pick up even more in the coming year, especially on the back of a stronger United States economy. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
"The question now is how the services sector will do.
"Performance there has been quite uneven across segments."