March manufacturing disappoints with 4.1% contraction

Singapore's manufacturers produced less output than expected last month, but managed to record an increase compared with February.

Factories here cranked out 4.1 per cent less production in March compared with the same month a year ago, according to data released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Friday. Economists had tipped a smaller 3 per cent drop.

The year-on-year decline was virtually across the board, with output falling in all segments except biomedical manufacturing.

Electronics production slid 7.2 per cent, transport engineering shrank 13.5 per cent and precision engineering was down 14.7 per cent, the EDB said. Biomedical manufacturing, however, jumped 16.2 per cent.

But EDB also said total output rose 6.2 per cent in March from February, reflecting a pick-up in the pace of manufacturing.

This month-on-month increase was also due to a surge in the volatile biomedical manufacturing sector, without which overall manufacturing production would have stayed flat from February into March.

Still, even this rise was smaller than expected, with economists earlier projecting a 7.1 per cent expansion in March over February.

For the first three months of the year, the manufacturing sector shrank 6.8 per cent compared to the first quarter of last year.