Manufacturers' hopes for year-end festive boost dashed amid tepid global outlook

An employee works on solar panels on the module production line at the REC Solar ASA manufacturing facility at Tuas on Sept 5, 2014. The manufacturing sector's hopes for a festive season boost are likely to end in disappointment going by data ou
An employee works on solar panels on the module production line at the REC Solar ASA manufacturing facility at Tuas on Sept 5, 2014. The manufacturing sector's hopes for a festive season boost are likely to end in disappointment going by data out on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The manufacturing sector's hopes for a festive season boost are likely to end in disappointment going by data out on Tuesday.

While the numbers were still positive, the sugar rush expected from higher orders for the Christmas buying period coupled with lower oil prices and the economic rally in the United States has failed to appear.

Singapore's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) , an early indicator of manufacturing activity, came in at 51.8 last month as manufacturers saw increases in new domestic and export orders, as well as higher production output, imports and employment. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

The latest figure was 0.1 point lower than October's reading, which had been the highest in more than a year.

The monthly data is compiled by the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management from a survey of more than 150 firms.

Singapore manufacturers appear to be doing better than their counterparts elsewhere.

Growth in China's manufacturing sector slowed in November, suggesting the world's second-largest economy is still losing momentum.

China's official PMI eased to an eight-month low of 50.3, while the HSBC PMI edged down to 50, a six-month low.

Manufacturing momentum slowed not just in Asia but also in the west, with Germany and France contracting.

Only India and Vietnam saw some pick-up.

Mr Frederic Neumann, the co-head of Asian economic research at HSBC, said the numbers "may strike optimists as puzzling" on the back of stronger growth in the US and tumbling oil prices.

"Perhaps it's early days. Perhaps it's structural issues, like towering debt loads, that are holding things back. It is starting to smell like the latter," he said in a research note.