Nothing to cheer about yet, say economists

Pedestrians walk past office buildings in the central business district of Singapore in 2013.
Pedestrians walk past office buildings in the central business district of Singapore in 2013.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE - The Singapore economy picked up pace to grow 2.2 per cent in the second quarter from a year ago, a shade better than the revised 2.1 per cent expansion in the first quarter, according to official advance estimates released on Thursday morning (July 14).

Economists, however, are not cheering yet:

Mizuho economist Vishnu Varathan: Downside risks remain

In a report titled "Neither Assurance nor Absolution", he said the "mild growth traction" was not to be dismissed. But the fact remains that a "pipeline (of) downside risks negates mild and uneven improvement". This is especially so if Brexit inflicts a lasting negative demand shock on the global economy.

ANZ economist Weiwen Ng: Staying cautious

Says he is "staying cautious" on Singapore's growth outlook.

"The risk of external weakness spilling into domestic activity - if that materialises - will continue to be a drag on the labour market, muting both growth and inflation outlook," he wrote.

"Already, Singapore is leaning in heavily on its fiscal levers with an expansionary stance, with an estimated (fiscal) impulse at slightly more than 1 per cent of GDP."

DBS economist Irvin Seah: Q2 estimate flags weak growth

Says he is sticking by his long-held GDP growth forecast of 1.5 per cent for 2016, noting that the second quarter figure points at "weak growth".

"All key sectors recorded sub-1 per cent sequential growth in the quarter, which underscored the underlying weakness in growth momentum amid the challenging global environment," he said.

"Barring another pharmaceutical production spike-up, outlook for the manufacturing sector is expected to remain challenging.

"Though service sector has rebounded to positive growth territory, the pace of growth remains sluggish. Key financial services continued to struggle with risk aversion, contraction in loan growth and volatility in the global financial markets. Construction sector growth has also moderated.

"All in, while growth performance for the economy has surprised marginally on the upside, it wasn't encouraging at all," said Mr Seah.