Singapore factory output snaps losing streak, surging 13.7% in August as semiconductors shine

The semiconductor segment has grown 11.2 per cent over the first eight months of 2020. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Singapore's manufacturing output rebounded in August, ending a three-month slump, bolstered by strong growth in semiconductor production and a swing to growth for the volatile biomedical segment.

Factory production grew a surprisingly strong 13.7 per cent compared with the same period a year ago, according to data released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Friday (Sept 25). Economists had expected a 4.6 per cent increase, according to the median of their forecasts in a Reuters poll.

Excluding biomedical manufacturing, output increased 15.3 per cent.

The bounce-back in August's readings followed an upwardly revised 7.6 per cent decline in July's factory output.

On a year-on-year basis, production in the key electronics cluster surged 44.2 per cent, due to a strong performance in the semiconductors segment.

A 56.9 per cent leap in chip output was supported by demand from cloud services, data centres and the 5G market, which outweighed declines in the info-communications and consumer electronics, as well as computer peripherals and data storage segments.

Year-to-date, the electronics cluster has increased 4.1 per cent compared with the same period in 2019.

The precision engineering cluster also saw significant growth and was up 9.4 per cent year-on-year. This was underpinned by higher production of semiconductor equipment. The segment has grown 11.2 per cent over the first eight months of 2020.

The volatile biomedical manufacturing segment rebounded from July's 24.3 per cent contraction to record an uptick of 8.4 per cent in August. This was due to higher export demand for medical instruments and higher output in biological products.

It has been Singapore's best performing manufacturing segment this year, with an 18 per cent improvement compared with 2019.

On the other hand, transport engineering output plunged 36 per cent in August compared with the same period last year. The aerospace and marine and offshore engineering segments dropped 34 per cent and 50.7 per cent respectively, with the coronavirus outbreak continuing to dampen activity in these industries.

The cluster has shrunk 22.2 per cent year-to-date.

General manufacturing also recorded a decline of 18.6 per cent, with the decreases seen across segments.

In particular, the food, beverage and tobacco segment fell 13.8 per cent in part to maintenance shutdowns, which affected milk powder production. The miscellaneous industries dropped 24.1 per cent due to lower output in construction-related products, with the slow resumption of domestic construction activity.

The general manufacturing industry shrunk 13.3 per cent in output between January and August.

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