Singapore exports fall 11.2% in July amid electronics slump

Exports to all of Singapore's top 10 markets fell, except to the US. Leading the decline were falling shipments to Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Exports to all of Singapore's top 10 markets fell, except to the US. Leading the decline were falling shipments to Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Decline not as bad as tipped but outlook for sector bleak as trade spats continue

Singapore's exports plunged again in July - the fifth straight month of double-digit falls - on the back of the prolonged electronics slump.

Non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) fell 11.2 per cent last month, according to data out yesterday.

But the decline was not as grim as the 15.4 per cent fall tipped by experts in a Bloomberg poll.

July shipments were also 3.7 per cent ahead of their level in June, when they had fallen 7.8 per cent from May.

Revised numbers yesterday also noted that exports fell 17.4 per cent year on year in June - the biggest drop since a 33.2 per cent dive in February 2013.

CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun said June's large fall could be "the bottom of the current cycle, but double-digit declines might persist over the next few months" as orders continue to weaken. Electronics exports were the main culprit last month. They shrank 24.2 per cent over the same month last year, and followed the 31.9 per cent drop in June.

Non-electronics shipments were down 6.6 per cent last month, easing from the 12.6 per cent fall in June.

Maybank economists Chua Hak Bin and Lee Ju Ye said the outlook for electronics exports "for the rest of the year remains bleak as hopes for a recovery in the global semiconductor cycle are dimming amid the escalating US-China trade conflict and Japan-South Korea trade spat".

The fall in non-electronics exports was led by pharmaceuticals, down 32.7 per cent, specialised machinery, which fell by 31.3 per cent, and primary chemicals, which dropped 30.9 per cent, according to Enterprise Singapore.

Exports to all of Singapore's top 10 markets fell, except those to the United States. Exports to emerging markets also declined, down 29.6 per cent after a 17 per cent fall in June.

UOB economist Barnabas Gan said "the slowdown in trade momentum seen across Asia is also evident in Singapore's exports to its key destinations, given the intensified trade tensions between US and China, ongoing disputes between Japan and South Korea, and Hong Kong's protests".

 
 

Senior lecturer Tan Khay Boon of SIM Global Education said: "Although the magnitude of Nodx decline was smaller compared with June's, it is too early to say that the worst is over."

He noted that the US has labelled China a currency manipulator and that the trade conflict might lead to a currency dispute.

The Maybank economists said: "The export outlook remains bleak, with the US announcing fresh rounds of tariffs on the remaining US$300 billion (S$416 billion) of Chinese imports."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore exports fall 11.2% in July amid electronics slump'. Print Edition | Subscribe