SINGAPORE - Singapore's industrial production in January declined just 0.5 per cent on a year-on-year basis, saved by the volatile biomedical sector.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected factory output to contract 4.8 per cent, after it shrank 7.9 per cent in December.
Still, this was the 12th straight month that manufacturing has contracted, and, excluding the biomedical segment - which makes up about one-fifth of manufacturing - factory output fell 7 per cent.
On a month-on-month and seasonally adjusted basis, manufacturing output increased 9.3 per cent in January over the low base of December. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, it grew 4.4 per cent, according to the data released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Friday (Feb 26).
Highlighting the challenges facing manufacturers here, factory output fell 5.2 per cent last year in the first annual contraction since the global financial crisis in 2009 and at the steepest pace since the dotcom collapse in 2001.
The sector, which accounts for one-fifth of Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP), has been plagued by a slowing global economy, with exports to China worst hit, and collapsing commodity prices.
January's data showed that the biomedical manufacturing cluster's output jumped 28.9 per cent year-on-year, reversing a 3.5 per cent fall in in December. The pharmaceuticals segment grew 34.3 per cent while the medical technology segment increased 10.8 per cent.
On a monthly or quarterly basis, pharmaceutical output could be volatile as plants churn out batches of drugs according to schedules.
Electronics - the biggest sector in manufacturing and accounting for over one-quarter of total output - saw a modest recovery in January after slumping for months. Output rose 1.7 per cent year-on-year, after falls of 13.7 per cent in December and 7.8 per cent in January.