Singapore factory output dips unexpectedly by 0.2% in September; first negative reading this year

Singapore's manufacturing output declined 0.2 per cent in September compared to a year ago, reversing a 3.7 per cent rise in August. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Manufacturing in Singapore saw a small but surprise drop in output last month with declines in most clusters - not just in volatile pharmaceuticals.

The latest Economic Development Board (EDB) figures, released on Friday (Oct 26), stand in stark contrast to analyst expectations of a 3.5 per cent increase, according to a Bloomberg poll.

Instead, Singapore's manufacturing output declined 0.2 per cent in September compared to a year ago, reversing a 3.7 per cent rise in August. August's figure was revised upwards from a 3.3 per cent estimated increase.

This was the first negative reading for manufacturing since December last year when output dropped 2.4 per cent.

Of the four out of six clusters that logged declines, biomedical manufacturing saw the largest year-on-year drop at 9.7 per cent last month. The medical technology segment shrank 5.8 per cent while pharmaceuticals saw a bigger 11.1 per cent contraction.

In particular, the contraction in pharmaceuticals was due to "a different mix of active pharmaceutical ingredients being produced", noted EDB.

Output of the key electronics cluster fell 5.5 per cent in September, with all segments except infocomms and consumer electronics recording lower production. Computer peripherals production shrank the most - by 33.2 per cent - while output of semiconductors, data storage and other electronic modules and components also declined.

Output in chemicals dropped 7.1 per cent also, despite the specialties segment growing on account of higher production of industrial gases and mineral oil additives. The rest of the chemical segments saw declines, with contractions in petrochemicals and petroleum due to maintenance shutdowns.

General manufacturing output fell as well, with output down 2.7 per cent compared to last year.

Under this cluster, the food, beverages and tobacco segment saw higher output due to more production of infant milk products, though other segments such as printing logged declines.

There were a few bright spots, however, namely in the transport engineering and precision engineering clusters.

Transport engineering output rose 39.4 per cent, with the marine and offshore engineering segment expanding the most due to a low base in comparison last year, said EDB. There was also a higher level of work done in offshore projects, it added.

Aerospace grew as well, with a higher volume of engine repair and maintenance work from commercial airlines, but the land transport segment dipped.

Meanwhile, precision engineering output was up 4.1 per cent, with an expansion in precision modules and components, supported by higher production in optical instruments.

In contrast, the machinery and systems segment saw a decrease, on account of lower production of process control equipment and refrigeration systems.

Overall, excluding biomedical manufacturing, output grew 1.9 per cent year on year, while on a three-month moving average basis, it rose 3.5 per cent.

On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, manufacturing output decreased by 4.9 per cent.

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