Singapore factory output disappoints with a 0.2% rise in October

The electronics cluster, which makes up a third of manufacturing output, contracted 6.1 per cent in October over the same month last year. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
The electronics cluster, which makes up a third of manufacturing output, contracted 6.1 per cent in October over the same month last year. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - A surge in biomedical output helped pull Singapore's manufacturing numbers out of the doldrums and into positive territory last month.

Factory output inched up just 0.2 per cent in October over the same month last year after falling 1 per cent year-on-year in September, according to statistics released on Wednesday by the Economic Development Board (EDB). The median forecast of economists polled by Bloomberg was for a 0.6 per cent rise.

Excluding biomedical manufacturing, which makes up about 6 per cent of manufacturing, output shrank 4.3 per cent.

The biomedical cluster's output rose 22.5 per cent over last year, mainly due to higher production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and biologics products.

Output of the chemical and precision engineering clusters also went up.

However, this was outweighed by declines in the general manufacturing, electronics and transport engineering segments.

In particular, the electronics cluster, which makes up a third of manufacturing output, contracted 6.1 per cent in October over the same month last year. It was dragged down by a 31.1 per cent plunge in the production of computer peripherals over last year. This was partly due to a high base last year when export demand was especially strong.

Overall electronics output has been almost flat, inching up just 0.1 per cent for the first ten months of this year compared with the same period in 2013.

Calling October's figures disappointing, UOB Global Economics and Markets Research said it expects factory output to grow 3.5 per cent for the full-year after expanding 3.7 per cent in the year-to-date:

"We expect further downside risks in the electronics manufacturing cluster as external demand conditions seem to point to cyclical weakness over the next few months. Moreover, the high base effects from 2H 2013 in Singapore's industrial production would also weigh on 2014 full year growth forecast."

Manufacturing output ticked up 1.7 per cent last year.