Singapore non-oil exports sink 15.6% in March, worse than expected

Singapore's non-oil domestic exports (NODX) in March shrank a worse-than-forecast 15.6 per cent from a year ago.
Singapore's non-oil domestic exports (NODX) in March shrank a worse-than-forecast 15.6 per cent from a year ago. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore's export slump has worsened in another sign of sluggish global demand, backing last week's unexpected policy easing as the central bank tries to revive economic growth.

Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) in March shrank a worse-than-forecast 15.6 per cent from a year ago as both electronic and non-electronic shipments were hit, International Enterprise (IE) Singapore announced on Monday morning (April 18).

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected March NODX to fall 13.2 per cent.

In February, NODX edged up 2 per cent from a year earlier, helped by a surge in shipments from the statistically volatile pharmaceuticals sector. Shipments fell 10.1 per cent in January, the third straight month of contraction.

Last Thursday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) surprised markets by easing its exchange-rate based policy after growth stalled in the first quarter, darkening the outlook for the economy. MAS set the Singapore dollar on a zero appreciation path against a basket of currencies of the nation's major trading partners and rivals.

On a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis, March NODX rose by 0.2 per cent, in contrast to the previous month's 4.2 per cent decrease, due to the expansion in non-electronic shipments which outweighed the contraction in electronic sales. This missed analysts' forecast of a 2.3 per cent month-on-month increase.

On a year-on-year basis, NODX to all of Singapore's top 10 markets, except Japan and Hong Kong, declined in March. The biggest contraction was seen in the EU 28 (-39.1 per cent), China (-14.1 per cent) and Indonesia (-20.2 per cent).

"Exports to China have been falling and that has been the main drag on overall export performance. In addition, the slowdown in China is structural in nature. And that suggests that the current NODX weakness may persist for a while," DBS said ahead of the Monday's report.

Electronic shipments, key to Singapore's export sector, contracted by 9.1 per cent in March, compared to a 0.7 per cent expansion in the previous month. The decline in electronic domestic exports was largely due to ICs (-10.3 per cent), PCs (-26.5 per cent) and parts of PCs (-18.0 per cent).

Non-electronic NODX fell 18 per cent, in contrast to the 2.6 per cent rise in February. The fall was led by structures of ships & boats (-99.6 per cent), pharmaceuticals (-30.9 per cent) and petrochemicals (-16.4 per cent).