Singapore factory activity up slightly in March but remains contractionary

A worker welds steel at a factory in the industrial zone of Jurong.
A worker welds steel at a factory in the industrial zone of Jurong. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Factory activity shrank for the ninth straight month in March, though last month's contraction was narrower than the more drastic drops over the past two months.

The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) - an early indicator of manufacturing activity - posted a reading of 49.4 in March, up slightly from February's 48.5 reading.

A reading below 50 indicates that more purchasing managers reported a deterioration in business than those noting an improvement.

Last month's improved reading came on the back of higher new orders, employment and factory output, though these indicators have remained in contractionary mode, said the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management, which compiles the PMI, in a report out on April 4.

The electronics sector PMI also posted a reading of 49.0 last month, up slightly from February's 48.2 reading.

In spite of this, employment in the electronics sector continued to contract for the 11th straight month, as most electronics manufacturers struggled to maintain a lean and productive workforce in an uncertain global business environment, said the report.