Non-oil exports fall for seventh straight month, but contraction eases

Non-oil domestic exports fell by 8.1 per cent in September, which was better than the 9 per cent fall in August.
Non-oil domestic exports fell by 8.1 per cent in September, which was better than the 9 per cent fall in August.PHOTO: ST FILE

Exports shrank for the seventh month in a row, even though the pace of contraction eased.

Non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) fell by 8.1 per cent last month, a somewhat better showing than the 9 per cent fall in August, according to data released yesterday by Enterprise Singapore.

This was the third month in a row where shipments improved. The August figure - revised down from the 8.9 per cent fall previously reported - also marked a return to single-digit territory after five straight months of double-digit declines.

But analysts polled by Bloomberg had been more optimistic for last month, expecting a 7.2 per cent fall.

On a seasonally adjusted, month-on-month basis, exports were down 3.3 per cent last month.

Some economists expect to see exports improve in the rest of the year, but stressed the downside risks from the United States-China trade tensions.

Maybank Kim Eng economists Chua Hak Bin and Lee Ju Ye said that Nodx may see some improvement in the last quarter of the year, given the lower base of comparison a year ago.

Economist Tan Khay Boon, a senior lecturer at SIM Global Education, also said that there may be stronger demand towards the end of the year.

"However, any meaningful rebound is possible only after an agreement has been reached between the US and China," he said.

UOB economist Barnabas Gan said that the slack in semiconductor exports across the Asia-Pacific is still being observed in Singa-pore, suggesting that the matu-ring global electronics cycle could still drag both exports and manufacturing momentum into the months ahead.

Electronics products weighed down Nodx, shrinking 24.8 per cent year on year last month, fol-lowing a 25.9 per cent contraction in August.

Integrated circuits, personal computers and disk media products contributed most to the decline.

Non-electronic exports contracted by 2.3 per cent - the same rate as in August. Pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals and jewellery caused the most drag.


Exports to the majority of Singapore's top markets fell, except to China and Taiwan. The biggest declines in shipments were to the European Union, the United States and Japan.

Exports to emerging markets declined by 22.4 per cent last month, worse than the 19.6 per cent fall in August.

Overall, both total imports and total exports decreased last month, but by less than the declines in August.

Dr Chua and Ms Lee noted that the better Nodx data last month was inflated by a surge in non-monetary gold exports to China, while electronics exports to China plunged at a steeper pace.

They expect economic growth in the last quarter to be supported by non-trade-related services, including finance, business services such as property transactions, and tourism-related sectors, due to diversion from Hong Kong.

On Monday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore eased the Singdollar's rate of appreciation for the first time in more than three years.

Dr Tan, from SIM Global Education, said this may assist in the export performance, but the impact may be limited as many products made here have a high import content.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article said the biggest declines in shipments were to Japan, the European Union and Hong Kong. These are the markets with the biggest percentage declines. The article has been amended to reflect the markets with the biggest declines in value of shipments.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2019, with the headline 'Non-oil exports fall for seventh straight month, but contraction eases'. Print Edition | Subscribe