Singapore factory output defies forecast of another drop with 0.1% uptick in April

Medical technology output rose 12 per cent with sustained export demand. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's factory output staged a small recovery in April after shrinking a revised 4.3 per cent in March, thanks to growth in the volatile biomedical manufacturing cluster and a fightback in semiconductors.

Manufacturing output inched up 0.1 per cent in April compared with the same period last year, according to figures released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Friday (May 24). This defied the expectations of analysts polled by Bloomberg, who predicted a fall of 3.5 per cent.

However, output fell 2.1 per cent when biomedical manufacturing was excluded.

Biomedical manufacturing recorded the highest growth, with output rising by 11.2 per cent in April on a year-on-year basis. The pharmaceuticals segment expanded 10.9 per cent with the higher production of biological products, while medical technology output rose 12 per cent with sustained export demand.

The key electronics cluster saw a slight dip in output of 0.6 per cent, compared with the 15.1 per cent contraction in March, thanks to semiconductors, which eked out a 0.3 per cent year-on-year growth from the 16.2 per cent drop in the previous month. The output of other electronic modules and components, and infocommunications and consumer electronics also expanded, while data storage and computer peripherals segments contracted.

The chemicals industry also saw higher output, with an increase of 1.9 per cent last month. The other chemicals segment grew 9.3 per cent, due to a higher production of fragrances, while the specialities segment grew 0.9 per cent.

However, the petrochemicals segment contracted 2.8 per cent, while petroleum refining throughput fell 4.3 per cent due to maintenance shutdowns in some plants.

The transport engineering cluster saw a drop in output of 1.1 per cent. Within this industry, the aerospace segment grew 16.3 per cent on account of more repair and maintenance jobs from commercial airlines. In contrast, the land transport segment declined 12.8 per cent and the marine and offshore engineering segment dropped 18.7 per cent, with lower levels of offshore projects, and shipbuilding and repairing activities.

Overall, the transport engineering cluster still grew 4.1 per cent in the first four months of 2019 compared with the same period last year.

General manufacturing also saw output slightly contracting, by 1.1 per cent. The food, beverages and tobacco segment grew 5.2 per cent on account of higher production of infant milk and dairy products. But the output of the printing and miscellaneous industries segments declined 7.0 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively, with the latter reporting lower output in construction-related materials.

Output also fell for the precision engineering sector, declining 10.4 per cent compared with a year ago. The precision modules and components segment increased 11.6 per cent, on account of higher production of optical products. On the other hand, the machinery and systems segment fell 20.6 per cent with lower output in industrial process control and semiconductor-related equipment.

Overall, the precision engineering cluster fell 12.5 per cent year on year in the period from January to April this year.


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