Singapore’s recession likely to deepen as exports fall


Singapore’s recession could deepen this quarter amid slumping exports as economies in the US and Europe deteriorate, said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB-GK Securities Pte, in Singapore.

“We could see GDP fall by as much as 12 per cent in the first quarter from a year ago,” Song told CIMB clients on Monday.

Gross domestic product contracted 3.7 per cent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, and the government said last month the economy may post its biggest contraction on record this year amid the deepening global recession. Singapore’s exports may fall by 30 per cent this quarter and drag the economy down, Song said.

“The decline in exports could be worse given that some electronics manufacturers in Singapore are operating at less than 30 per cent of their capacity,” he said.

The US and Europe are two of the city-state’s biggest export markets.

Singapore developer says office demand plunged

The Associated Press

CapitaLand Ltd, Southeast Asia’s largest property developer, said demand for Singapore office space plummeted last year as the global financial crisis knocked the city-state into recession.

“There was a big surge in demand for offices 10 or 11 months ago … but it suddenly stops and falls off a cliff,” CapitaLand Chief Executive Liew Mun Leong said at a news conference. “We know the market is softening and volume has gone down, and prices will be softening.”

The company’s fourth quarter profit fell 88 percent to 78 million Singapore dollars ($52.2 million) from SG$675 million a year earlier, Liew said. CapitaLand also plans to raise SG$1.84 billion by selling one new share for every two held by investors.

Singapore’s real estate market is reeling from a deep recession and job losses in the financial industry, which helps support demand for the country’s most expensive residential and commercial property. The economy contracted 17 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter.

Property prices rocketed between 2005 and 2007, luring some investors looking for a quick buck with speculative purchases. Private home prices surged 31 percent in 2007 as the economy expanded 7.7 percent.

Last year, prices fell 4.7 percent and economic growth slowed to 1.2 percent. The government expects gross domestic product to shrink as much as 5 percent this year.

“This was a classic property market bubble,” said Tim Murphy, managing director of Hong Kong-based property investment company IP Global. “By the end, you had taxi drivers trying to double their money in 10 minutes. That only leads to one thing — a crash.”

The government said last month that prices of private residential property dropped 6.1 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter, their steepest fall in a decade, and office rentals fell 6.5 percent.

High-end residential and commercial property will likely fall between 15 percent and 20 percent in the first half and remain flat in the second as a deepening global economic slowdown undermines consumer confidence, Murphy said.

“With the data that’s coming out, I can’t see anyone in Singapore who reads a newspaper being confident enough to buy real estate,” he said. “People have been too frightened.”

Liew declined to say how much he expected property prices to fall this year.

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