Singapore central bank chief says trade woes spell more uncertainty for global economy

MAS managing director Ravi Menon speaks at a Fintech conference at the Singapore Management University on Aug 19, 2016.
MAS managing director Ravi Menon speaks at a Fintech conference at the Singapore Management University on Aug 19, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - Growth in international trade is lagging global income for the first time in decades, spelling more uncertainty for the world economy, Singapore's central bank chief Ravi Menon said on Thursday (Sept 15).

"I don't know if it is a short term blip in the data ... or this is indicative of something more structural. And it is particularly of concern to Asia," Mr Menon, who is managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said at a seminar organised by the Milken Institute in Singapore.

"Are we entering a new era of uncertainty?" Mr Menon queried, underscoring worries among global policy makers about the extent of a slowdown in world demand.

The World Trade Organization in June forecast sluggish trade growth in the third quarter of 2016 accompanying its publication of a quarterly trade barometer for the first time.

The WTO forecast in April the global value of trade in goods would grow by 2.8 per cent this year, less than a previous forecast of 3.9 per cent.

Trade growth has averaged 5 per cent per year since 1990, but has not grown by more than 3 per cent since 2011.

Trade-dependent Singapore expects its non-oil domestic exports to fall by 3 per cent to 4 per cent in 2016 from the year before.

Mr Menon said the other worry for Asia is the tepid growth of private investments in the United States, highlighted by huge cash piles that are not being invested by companies.

A Moody's Investors Service report earlier this year said US non-financial companies were holding US$1.68 trillion in cash at the end of 2015, up 1.8 per cent from US$1.65 trillion the previous year.