Singapore factory output rises 6.7% in April, easing from March but electronics stays strong

 Employees at work in a United Test and Assembly Center (UTAC) Group semiconductor facility in Singapore.
Employees at work in a United Test and Assembly Center (UTAC) Group semiconductor facility in Singapore.ST PHOTO: FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's industrial production rose by 6.7 per cent in April from a year earlier, a slower pace than March's 11 per cent surge as pharmaceuticals slumped but with electronics, particularly semiconductors, continuing to shine.

This makes for the ninth straight month that manufacturing output has grown year-on-year. April's performance was also slightly better than the 6 per cent growth expected by analysts polled by Bloomberg.

March's factory output growth was revised upwards from an earlier estimate of 10. 2 per cent, according to the report released on Friday (May 26) by the Economic Development Board.

Leaving out biomedical production which was hit by the slump in pharmaceuticals, output grew 15.5 per cent year-on-year.

On a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis, factory output edged up 0.1 per cent from March, better than the 1.3 per cent decline tipped by analysts. Without biomedical production, it grew 5.4 per cent.

Electronics output surged 48 per cent year-on-year in April, continuing their strong run, with semiconductors the star performer with robust growth of 69.1 per cent. All other segments recorded higher output except for data storage. Cumulatively, electronics output expanded 37.3 per cent from January to April this year, compared to the same period last year.

In contrast, biomedical manufacturing output shrank 23.3 per cent in April due to the 32.4 per cent fall in the production of pharmaceuticals. The medical technology segment expanded 11.1 per cent. Cumulatively, biomedical manufacturing production fell 11.7 per cent in Jan to April year-on-year.

April's report also showed that while the key electronics continued to outperform and precision engineering to grow, the other clusters continued to suffer.

Output for transport engineering contracted 14.5 per cent year-on-year in April. The land transport and aerospace segments saw output grow 10.1 per cent and 5 respectively but the marine & offshore engineering segment saw it tumble 30.5 per cent as rig-building activity and demand for oilfield & gasfield equipment stayed weak.

The segment also recorded lower output in shipbuilding and repair jobs. The transport engineering cluster decreased 12 per cent in the first four months of 2017.

The chemicals cluster's output fell 1.8 per cent in April. The petroleum and specialities segments registered gains of 10.7 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively. but the petrochemicals segment fell 6.7 per cent due to some maintenance shut down. The other chemicals segment contracted 5.5 per cent with lower output of fragrances. In the first four months of 2017, output of the chemicals cluster increased 1.7 per cent year-on-year.

Output of the general manufacturing industries cluster fell 11 per cent. While the food, beverages & tobacco segment inched up 0.1 per cent, the printing and miscellaneous industries segments fell 16.3 per cent and 21 per cent respectively. On a year-to-date basis, output of the general manufacturing industries cluster fell 7.6 per cent.

Output of the precision engineering cluster grew 15.7 per cent. The machinery & systems segment grew 23.1 per cent on the back of higher export demand for semiconductor related equipment. Output of the precision modules & components segment increased 2.9 per cent. On a year-to-date basis, the cluster saw output up 19.3 per cent.