Singapore factory output feels Covid-19 hit with 1.1% drop in February as electronics slumps

Manufacturing output dropped 1.1 per cent last month over the same period in 2019, reversing the 3.5 per cent rise seen in January. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Singapore's factory output fell in February on a year-on-year basis, after the key electronics industry slumped amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to figures released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Thursday (March 26).

Manufacturing output dropped 1.1 per cent last month over the same period in 2019, reversing the 3.5 per cent rise seen in January. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, output fell by a bigger 2.5 per cent margin.

But the coronavirus impact was more obvious from the seasonally adjusted month-on-month comparison - February output sank 22.3 per cent from January. Excluding biomedicals, it fell 17.9 per cent

The Covid-19 outbreak began to accelerate at the end of January disrupting global supply chains, though China has begun reopening factories this month in a tentative recovery.

But the virus also spread globally this month, leading to grounded airlines, travel restrictions and lockdowns, with the full impact not yet reflected in the February data.

All the main factory clusters saw output increases, apart from the electronics sector.

Electronics output fell 17.3 per cent last month, deepening the 6.1 per cent drop in January. The key sector, which accounts for over a quarter of total production, shrank 11.2 per cent in the first two months of this year. Semiconductor output was worst hit, sinking 18.7 per cent while computer peripherals and data storage fell 17.4 per cent.

Precision engineering expanded output by 26.2 per cent in February compared with a year ago when production was low due in part to the Lunar New Year holidays, EDB noted.

The machinery and systems segment within this cluster increased 29.4 per cent, on account of higher production of semiconductor and lifting and handling equipment. The precision modules and components segment also grew, by 20.1 per cent with increased production of optical products, dies and molds and metal precision components.

General manufacturing grew 16.1 per cent, on the back of fewer production days over the Chinese New Year holidays last year. All segments within the cluster recorded output growth. The miscellaneous industries grew 25.7 per cent, while printing output rose 17.5 per cent and the food, beverage and tobacco segments expanded 9.3 per cent.

Transport engineering expanded 10.9 per cent in February. The aerospace segment increased output by 17.9 per cent with higher levels of repair and maintenance activities from commercial airlines. The marine and offshore engineering segment grew 5.6 per cent, supported by a higher level of work done in offshore projects.

Biomedical manufacturing increased output by 6.4 per cent, as the medical technology segment grew 9.1 per cent with higher export demand for medical devices, while pharmaceuticals output rose 5.3 per cent, with increased production of biological products.

The chemicals cluster also grew, by 5.2 per cent year-on-year in February. The specialties segment expanded 11.5 per cent, the petrochemicals output by 5.3 per cent and petroleum refining by 3.2 per cent. But the other chemicals segment declined 2 per cent.

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