Export growth beats forecast even as electronics slows

Shipments to most of Singapore's top markets, except Hong Kong and Taiwan, rose last month.
Shipments to most of Singapore's top markets, except Hong Kong and Taiwan, rose last month.LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO

Reasons are electronics did not ease as much as expected, growth drivers such as gold

Singapore's exports continued to expand last month but well under October's sizzling pace as electronics continued its slowdown.

Non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) rose 9.1 per cent over November last year, down from the revised 20.5 per cent growth in October, trade agency IE Singapore said yesterday.

October's expansion was the strongest pace of growth in eight months, due mainly to low base effects as well as a pickup in the more volatile non-electronics segments.

Last month's performance, however, still beat economist projections of a 5.5 per cent expansion, said Reuters.

There were two main reasons, noted economists. One was because expansion in electronics did not slow down as much as expected, said United Overseas Bank economist Francis Tan.

And, said Standard Chartered economist Jonathan Koh, unexpected growth drivers came from non-electronics segments such as non-monetary gold, which are harder to predict.

Nodx rose 8.7 per cent in November on a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, cooling off slightly from October's 12.3 per cent growth.

  • 10.6%

    Year-on-year growth in non-electronic products last month.

Exports were supported by electronics and non-electronics.

Non-electronic products grew by 10.6 per cent year on year - the sixth consecutive month of expansion but easing from the 28.1 per cent growth seen in October.

In particular, non-monetary gold, specialised machinery and primary chemicals contributed the most to growth in non-electronic exports.

But economists warn that these segments do not follow a fixed pattern and could not be depended on for future growth.

Electronics shipments expanded at a more muted pace of 5.2 per cent last month compared with a year ago, up from a 4.5 per cent growth in October. Electronics has been the star performer and a key driver of the Singapore economy this year.

Economists note that the trend of slowing electronics exports has been evident in the past few months and is expected to continue.

Mr Tan said: "Although we remain positive... on the overall Nodx expansion, we are doubtful whether the strong double-digit growth exhibited since November 2016 can be sustained as we move into 2018."

This is especially since the electronics cycle may be coming to an end with the rolling out of the next wave of smartphones, he added.

Singapore's non-oil re-exports - often seen as a proxy for wholesale trading - rose 3.9 per cent last month compared with a year earlier, after a 0.9 per cent decline in October.

Shipments to most of Singapore's top markets rose in November, except Hong Kong and Taiwan. Growth was mainly led by China, South Korea and the United States.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2017, with the headline 'Export growth beats forecast even as electronics slows'. Print Edition | Subscribe