Singapore exports take another hit

Shipments of non-electronic products slumped 5.1 per cent in November from a year earlier, owing mainly to slower trade in pharmaceuticals, structural parts and food preparations. Overall, the fall in exports was led by a 9.1 per cent dive in Nodx to
Shipments of non-electronic products slumped 5.1 per cent in November from a year earlier, owing mainly to slower trade in pharmaceuticals, structural parts and food preparations. Overall, the fall in exports was led by a 9.1 per cent dive in Nodx to China.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Nodx falls 3.3% last month over last Nov amid meagre growth in electronics exports of 0.7%

Exporters here suffered another unexpectedly bad month in November as Asia remains stuck in a trade recession while the world economy rejigs itself. Singapore's non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) fell 3.3 per cent last month over November last year, far short of market forecasts of a 1.5 per cent expansion.

"The increasingly services-led recovery in the United States and higher degree of vertical integration in Chinese supply chains are trade negative for the region," said ANZ economist Ng Weiwen.

He noted that China is now less reliant on Singapore factories for the country's supply chain.

In a year of major volatility, Nodx fell 2.1 per cent in September and flatlined in October, data from trade agency IE Singapore has shown.

Economists were expecting a surge in electronics exports to lift last month's Nodx. Instead, shipments of electronic products grew a meagre 0.7 per cent in November from the same month last year.

GRIM OUTLOOK

The more important factor for 2016 is not how much cheaper our exports can get, but whether the final demand conditions - particularly coming from the US, Europe, Japan and China - will pick up.

UOB ECONOMIST FRANCIS TAN, who expects the Singdollar to weaken against the greenback over the nexttwo quarters, but doubts Singapore's exporters have much to gain from their goods becoming cheaper in US-dollar terms

Exports of integrated circuits - 63 per cent of which were bound for Hong Kong and mainland China - fell 3.4 per cent in a second straight month of decline, noted UOB economist Francis Tan.

IE Singapore pointed out that telecommunications equipment, computer peripherals, diodes and transistors had booked higher shipments in November, though these made up only a small share of total electronic exports.

"The continued lacklustre print in electronics exports echoes November trade prints in North Asia where the decline was largely driven by tech-related exports," said Mr Ng.

The smartphone upgrade cycle has steadily grown longer over the years, casting a pall on the demand for integrated circuits, he added.

Shipments of non-electronic products slumped 5.1 per cent in November from a year earlier, owing mainly to slower trade in pharmaceuticals, structural parts and food preparations.

Overall, the fall in exports was led by a 9.1 per cent dive in Nodx to China, followed closely by Malaysia, off 8.9 per cent, and the European Union, which slid 6.2 per cent.

This year's sideways exports story worries most economists, who said they see no clear recovery in sight.

Mr Tan expects the Singdollar to weaken against the greenback over the next two quarters, following the decision by the US Federal Reserve to begin a gradual lift-off of interest rates on Wednesday night.

But he doubts Singapore's exporters have much to gain from their goods becoming cheaper in US-dollar terms. "The more important factor for 2016 is not how much cheaper our exports can get, but whether the final demand conditions - particularly coming from the US, Europe, Japan and China - will pick up," he said.

Mr Lim Meng Huat, chief operating officer of ornamental fish exporter Apollo Aquarium, said exports to European markets are still below pre-crisis levels, but he senses a "slow recovery" nonetheless.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore exports take another hit'. Print Edition | Subscribe