Factory activity in Singapore shrinks for 14th straight month

Factories in the industrial district of Jurong.
Factories in the industrial district of Jurong.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The beleaguered manufacturing sector contracted for the 14th straight month in August as the global outlook remained weak.

The pace of contraction was slower than in July, but economists warned against over-optimism given that factories across the region remain mired in a slump.

The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) - an early indicator of manufacturing activity - came in at 49.8 last month, up slightly from the 49.3 reading in July. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

Singapore's PMI has been in contractionary territory since last June. The improvement last month over July was due to more new orders and new exports, as well as increases in factory output. However, manufacturing employment, which has been contracting since November 2014, remained lacklustre.

The data is compiled by the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management from a monthly poll of purchasing executives at about 150 industrial firms.

The survey also showed that the PMI for the electronics sector logged a marginal expansion at 50.2 - the first sign of an uptick after 13 months of contractionary readings.

This was attributed to a rise in new domestic and export orders as well as increased factory output.

Manufacturers turned in patchy performances elsewhere in the region. China's official PMI showed that factory activity expanded at its fastest pace in nearly two years last month. The reading came in at 50.4, the highest since October 2014. But this was more than offset by the drop in a separate private survey of China's manufacturing activity - the Caixin Manufacturing PMI. This came in at 50 last month, slightly missing forecasts for 50.1 and below July's 50.6 reading.

India's manufacturing sector is accelerating, and Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam also picked up a little speed, the latest numbers showed. In contrast, Malaysia and South Korea pulled back.