Private economists expect weaker Singapore growth, lower inflation this year: MAS survey

SINGAPORE - Private sector economists have downgraded their forecasts for Singapore's economic growth and inflation this year, according to a new survey released on Wednesday.

The quarterly survey conducted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) showed that economists now expect the economy to expand just 2.8 per cent this year, down from an earlier forecast of 3.1 per cent.

The poll, sent out on Feb 17, reflects the views received from 21 analysts who closely monitor the Singapore economy.

Official forecasts tip growth to come in between 2 per cent and 4 per cent this year.

The lower forecasts follow the release on Tuesday of weaker figures for Singapore exports. Shipments from the Republic's factories slumped 9.7 per cent in February compared with the same month last year.

Key reasons given for the slowing in exports - an important part of Singapore's economy - include a slowdown in growth in mainland China, and lacklustre growth elsewhere in the world.

For the current first quarter ending March 31, economists surveyed expect 2 per cent growth, down markedly from the earlier forecast of 2.5 per cent.

Survey respondents expect inflation for this year to come in very close to zero - just 0.1 per cent - significantly lower than the earlier estimate of 1.1 per cent.

The respondents also expect MAS core inflation - seen as a better gauge of out-of- pocket expenses for households - to be 1 per cent, down from the 1.9 per cent projected in the previous survey.

In January, the MAS dramatically cut its inflation forecasts for this year on the back of plunging oil prices.

MAS now expects inflation to come in between negative 0.5 per cent and 0.5 per cent this year.

This is down from earlier estimates of 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent, and is the first time the central bank has forecast the possibility of negative inflation, or deflation, since 2009.

chiaym@sph.com.sg