Singapore exports decline as electronics shipments extend slump

Shamim Adam

Singapore’s exports fell for a 12th month in April, extending the longest slump in overseas sales since 2002, as the island’s manufacturers shipped fewer electronics to customers abroad.

Non-oil domestic exports dropped 19.2 percent from a year earlier, after contracting a revised 17.3 percent in March, the trade promotion agency said in a statement today. Economists had expected an 18.9 percent decline.

Singapore’s economy is forecast by the government to shrink as much as 9 percent this year and the central bank expects a “slow and gradual” recovery. A decline in global trade has hurt earnings at companies such as Neptune Orient Lines Ltd. and port operator PSA International Pte as cargo loads decline and container traffic slows.

“We may have seen a glimmer of hope in some export markets but demand from the bigger ones such as the U.S. is still weak,” said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB-GK Securities Pte in Singapore. “It’s still too early to predict when a sustainable recovery will begin.”

The government said last month it expects overseas shipments to fall as much as 13 percent this year, worse than an earlier forecast for a decline of between 9 percent and 11 percent. Production fell the most in at least 13 years in March.

“Almost 60 percent of our exports are destined for economies that are expected to be in outright recession in 2009,” the central bank said in an April 29 report. “Weak global industry demand and structural strains could further weigh down the domestic manufacturing sector, causing it to settle at a much lower level of production that in the pre- crisis period.”

Electronics fall

Singapore’s non-oil exports fell a seasonally adjusted 1.3 percent last month from March, when they gained a revised 10.4 percent, today’s report showed. Economists had expected a 1.5 percent increase.

Electronics shipments plunged 25.6 percent in April from a year earlier, the 27th consecutive drop, following a 25.7 percent decline in March. Sales of electronics products by companies including Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd. were worth S$4.24 billion ($2.9 billion) last month.

Non-electronics shipments, which include petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals, fell 14.8 percent in April from a year earlier. Pharmaceutical shipments rose 41.6 percent.

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