Singapore key exports plunge 24% in February


Singapore’s key exports plunged 24 percent in February, in a further sign the city-state is headed for its worst-ever recession amid plummeting global demand for its products.

It was the 10th straight month of decline in key non-oil domestic exports, following a record 35 percent drop in January, according to government figures released Tuesday.

February’s fall was roughly in line with the average 23.6 percent fall tipped by analysts in a Dow Jones Newswires poll.

On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, however, exports grew 1.8 percent from January, the International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) trade promotion agency said.

Total trade in February fell 22.1 percent to almost 54 billion Singapore dollars (35 billion US) as shipments to the city-state’s top 10 markets, except China, were down, according to the monthly data.

Demand from the recession-hit US shrank the most as shipments fell 44.4 percent to 1.03 billion dollars, following a 50 percent decline in January.

Shipments to the European Union skidded 36.7 percent to 1.4 billion dollars, while exports to Japan plummeted 38.9 percent to 581 million dollars, IE Singapore said.

Last month’s non-oil export figures were pulled down by continued weak demand for electronics, pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals, the main staple of Singapore’s exports.

Overall electronics exports dropped 31.9 percent to 3.5 billion dollars, pharmaceuticals fell 23.4 percent to 1.3 billion dollars while petrochemicals declined 42.6 percent to 562 million dollars, IE Singapore said.

The NODX data is a closely watched barometer for the Singapore economy, which is extremely dependent on external trade.

Analysts said the latest trade data did not bode well for the city-state in the next few months.

“I think you can expect double-digit contraction at least in some months in the first half of the year,” said Alvin Liew, a Singapore-based economist with Standard Chartered Bank.

There is a chance of a turnaround possibly late in the year as massive stimulus packages in major world economies result in increased demand for Singapore-made goods, he said.

“We see those stimulus packages hopefully filtering through in the second half,” said Liew. “We can’t spend ourselves out of the recession but we may benefit from the stimulus packages in other countries.”

Song Seng Wun, regional economist with CIMB-GK brokerage, said he expected monthly non-oil exports to shrink by 20 to 40 percent until the fourth quarter.

The drop in Singapore shipments mirrored similar declines in other Asian export-driven economies such as Taiwan and South Korea, Song said.

London-based consultancy Capital Economics said in a report the weakness in Asian exports had begun to hurt private domestic demand due to rising corporate bankruptcies, more job losses and falling consumer confidence.

“Large fiscal packages have been announced across the region but the benefits are likely to be felt late in the year,” it said.

Singapore’s economy is forecast to slip into its worst ever recession this year with gross domestic product likely to shrink by up to 5.0 percent.

Singapore container throughput dives

Lee Hong Liang
PortWorld News

Containers handled by the port of Singapore plunged 19.8% in February from a year ago due to continued weakness in trade, according to data from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

Container throughput last month was recorded at 1.8504 million TEUs, down from 2.3084 million TEUs in the same period last year.

Month-on-month, throughput fell 6.3% in February from 1.9744 million TEUs in January, MPA figures showed.

PSA International handled 3.72 million TEUs at its Singapore terminals in the first two months of 2009, down 19.7% from a year earlier.

The decline in box figures comes after Singapore’s key non-oil exports slumped in January at a record 34.8% from a year earlier as a deteriorating global economy hits demand for Asian goods.

Singapore Airlines report worst ever February traffic declines, as load factors slump
Center for Asia Pacific Aviation

Singapore Airlines today reported its worst ever decline in passenger traffic. Revenue Passenger Kilometres were down 17.0% and passenger numbers fell by 20.2%.

And, despite the fact that SIA had reduced capacity over the month (Available Seat Kilometres) by 8.5%, this meant that system load factors fell by a whopping 7.1%, from 76.8%, to 69.7%.

Cargo Freight Tonne Kilometres fell 15.2%, with freight carried down 16.9% by weight and cargo load factors fell 5.5%.

(Statistical note: these figures are compared with Feb-08. That month included one more day, as it was a Leap Year; the month of Feb-08 also included the Lunar New Year holiday, whereas this year it occurred in January.

The effects are to magnify the passenger downturn, by between 5-10%. The effect for freight is slightly different; like passenger numbers, volumes are reduced by the shorter month, but are normally negatively affected by the New Year holiday – ie freight falls are probably slightly understated.)

The worst declines in load factor occurred on European routes (-10.2%) – unsurprisingly, long haul is worst affected (although SIA did not report ASK changes for route groups, so that it is not clear where capacity was reduced – or not).

The Americas were also badly affected, with an 8.3% LF fall. But SW Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) routes were least affected, with a fall of only 4.4%. reflecting to some extent reduced capacity.

Cargo also performed worst on European routes (-9.3%), but actually showed a small (+1.9%) but unique increase on Australia-New Zealand routes.

The Americas markets are becoming a severe burden for Singapore Airlines, after high hopes with longhaul all-business services, which have all suffered as the US economy tanked in the second half of 2008.

Following a peak passenger load factor in the North American 2008 Summer season, of over 86%, the (lower season) Feb-09 shows a massive drop, to 63.9%.

This comes despite the introduction of the smaller B777-300ER on the San Francisco service via Hong Kong and the termination of Los Angeles (via Taipei) service.

SIA is rapidly dropping capacity, by reducing service on higher frequency routes, attempting not to cut routes altogether. From capacity growth levels nudging 10% in mid-08, capacity is now down significantly (although, as noted above, the 8.5% decline needs to be adjusted).

Further capacity cuts will be necessary, and SIA: “will continue to monitor traffic movement and make appropriate adjustments to its route network where necessary to match capacity to demand.”

And, as is graphically illustrated in the following chart, a worrying feature is the growing depth of the load factor declines – despite significant reductions in capacity.

Changes of this magnitude automatically flow through to the bottom line, as discounting seeks to generate higher loads.

But, despite this, it is clear that the carrier has been unable to match prices and capacity reductions with slower demand: “The prevailing global economic crisis has significantly dampened travel demand, translating to weaker uplifts.”

These impacts will appear when SIA reports its financial results – and the outlook appears to be worsening rapidly. However, to gain a clearer picture (in view of the statistical differences year on year), the March and March Quarter figures will be more revealing and reliable.

Singaporeans least optimistic about the property market

Singapore reveals the results of its latest survey: Majority of Singaporeans have Low Confidence in the Country’s Real Estate Market.

Singapore’s No. 1 property website and part of the Group, reveals the results of its latest survey on the real estate market, which shows Singaporeans to be the least confident and least optimistic about the property market compared to Hong Kongers and Malaysians.

Results of two separate polls, which were carried out from 22 January to 26 February 2009 in three countries – Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia – show that amongst the three countries surveyed, Singaporeans are the least optimistic with majority of respondents opining that market conditions will worsen and that property prices will continue to fall in the next six months.

Poll 1: Should I wait for market conditions to improve before selling my property?

• On selling properties, out of the total 106 respondents who participated in the first poll, 57.5% felt that market conditions would worsen and prefer to let go of their properties now to cut their losses.

• 30.2% of respondents felt that the time is not right to sell, and would prefer to wait for things to turn around.

• A minority of 12.3% believed that market conditions may not be ideal, but remained confident of getting good prices for their properties.

Poll 2: Considering current market conditions, do you think this is the best time to buy property?

• On buying properties, the second poll – which had a total of 114 respondents – a whopping 89.5% felt that the timing was not right to purchase property, as they believed that chances of property prices dipping in the next six months are high.

• Only a minority of 10.5% felt that property prices are already at the lowest, hence it would be a good time to buy.

Amongst the three countries surveyed, Singaporeans are the most pessimistic about the property market, with Malaysians being the most optimistic and Hong Kongers taking a wait-and-see approach. Given current market conditions, Singaporeans are also more inclined to rent rather than buy (please refer to enclosed Annex for poll results).

Executive Chairman of the Group, Patrick Grove, says: “Despite the negative sentiment, we have been witnessing a tremendous increase in our website traffic. While market conditions are not rosy, there are a number of Singaporeans who are on the lookout for bargain buys. We also observe that more people are renting, with rental enquiries on Singapore rising significantly in the last 12 months.”

“During the heady days of the property boom, a lot of people purchased property – speculators, investors and homebuyers alike – and they would have paid high sums for their properties. Furthermore, there is a huge supply of new properties coming onto the market, with numerous new properties to be completed this year. This situation applies downward pressure on property prices and increases competition to sell and rent. Having said that, the Singapore property market should do well in the long term, based on the country’s strong and solid economic fundamentals,” adds Grove.

The Group operates Asia’s leading network of property portals. Since its launch in 2007, Singapore has grown rapidly to become the country’s No. 1 property portal. It recently revamped its iCondo Directory with over 3,500 new images and 200 panoramic tours. It has also launched a brand new HDB Flats section, which includes panoramic tours of HDB estates, guides on buying, selling and renting HDB flats, as well as guides on each HDB estate.

In addition to the speed and convenience of the Internet, provides consumers with a greatly enhanced property hunting experience via a comprehensive range of features and property hunting tools. These include a powerful search function; a large database of the latest listings complemented by photos, videos, virtual tours and Google maps; email alerts; a large pool of useful resources and guides, and iExpert, a novel platform for users to seek answers and share knowledge on property related matters. On top of that, it regularly carries out surveys and polls to collate useful data for its consumers, as an added value for property hunters and sellers alike. online polls and surveys are conducted across three countries – Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong – on a regular basis. These polls pose questions that elicit market sentiment in these three key Asian markets in the real estate industry. The results of’s online polls and surveys are relevant, current and reflective of the market as it reaches a wide audience with its large volume of traffic website and unique visitors.