Singapore's factory orders contract for fourth straight month in March

The Purchasing Managers' Index - an early indicator of factory activity - declined for the fourth straight month in March. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 
The Purchasing Managers' Index - an early indicator of factory activity - declined for the fourth straight month in March. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 

SINGAPORE - Manufacturing still seems to be stuck in the doldrums, and it could well have dragged down economic growth in the first quarter, some economists suggested.

The Purchasing Managers' Index - an early indicator of factory activity - declined for the fourth straight month in March.

The latest reading stood at 49.6, following a reading of 49.7 in February. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

A decline in both domestic and export orders amid tepid global demand were largely behind the downbeat numbers.

The monthly index is compiled by the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management from a survey of more than 150 firms.

The PMI for the electronics sector offered a sliver of optimism.

It came in at 50.1 in March, up from February's 49.8, on the back of higher new orders and more production.

The sector contributes about a third of total factory output.

PMIs elsewhere in Asia also showed signs of continued weakness.

South Korea, an important regional bellwether, saw PMI dip into contractionary territory after two months of expansion. Similarly, Taiwan and Japan pulled back, suggesting that, along with China, Asia's manufacturing centres are stalling.