S'pore manufacturing posts 20th straight month of growth

PMI for April dips marginally to 52.9, with pace of growth steadying over past 6 months

April's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) was 52.9, marginally down from 53 in March, with a reading of 50 and above indicating expansion. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The manufacturing sector recorded its 20th straight month of expansion last month, although the pace of growth has steadied over the past six months, according to figures out yesterday.

Last month's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) came in at 52.9, marginally down from 53.0 in March. A reading of 50 and above indicates expansion.

Ms Selena Ling, OCBC's head of treasury research and strategy, said this partly reflects "a small degree of caution that may have crept in recently", although momentum remains intact.

The PMI, which is based on a monthly poll of purchasing executives in around 150 industrial companies, is a leading indicator of economic activity. The reading has fluctuated between 52.6 and 53.1 since last October.

The Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management, which compiles the data, attributed last month's marginally lower reading to slower growth in new orders, new exports and factory output.

The expansion was supported by higher inventory and employment levels. Inventory saw the fastest growth since July 2014, while finished goods stocks recorded the fastest expansion since February 2016. All other indicators also saw faster rates of expansion, with the exception of order backlog, which slowed to 50.7.

The electronics sector racked up its 21st consecutive month of expansion, with last month's PMI at 52.2, down from 52.4 in March.

This was the fourth straight month that electronics - recently the main driver of manufacturing growth - grew at a slower rate than overall manufacturing.

Ms Ling expects manufacturing growth to ease to around 6.3 per cent year on year in the second quarter, after the first quarter's strong 10.1 per cent showing.

She tips full-year growth of 4.5 per cent year on year, with gross domestic product growth "anchored around the 3.0 per cent handle".

Regional PMI readings for April painted a mixed picture. Japan, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam saw faster growth. Taiwan remained in expansion, though at a slower pace. However, Malaysia and South Korea saw their manufacturing downturns intensifying. Thailand faced its second straight month of deterioration, although at a slowing pace of decline.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2018, with the headline S'pore manufacturing posts 20th straight month of growth. Subscribe