Business

Experts cautious despite strong numbers

S'pore's Nodx up 9.4% year-on-year

Exporters ended last year on an unexpectedly upbeat note as shipments from Singapore registered another month of robust growth, surprising economists who had expected a more modest uptick.

December's unexpectedly strong non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) figures might be a sign that the region is finally recovering from its long trade slump.

But economists cautioned against popping the champagne too early, especially in view of possible risks from United States President-elect Donald Trump's anti-trade stance.

Singapore's Nodx expanded 9.4 per cent in December over the same month a year earlier. This was significantly higher than economists' expectations of 5.8 per cent and also followed a strong 11.5 per cent reading in November.

Singapore's trade numbers have been lacklustre in recent years on the back of tepid global growth and structural changes in the manufacturing sector.

Nodx contracted 3.2 per cent for the whole of last year, marking the fourth straight year of decline.

The latest numbers could suggest that Nodx have finally turned the corner, economists said.

December's rise was driven by increases in both electronic and non-electronic shipments.

KEY GROWTH AREAS

Integrated circuits, parts of PCs and consumer electronics contributed the most to the growth in electronic domestic exports, while specialised machinery, petrochemicals and primary chemicals helped lift non-electronic shipments.

Electronics manufacturing, in particular, seems to be staging a slow but steady recovery and prospects in the segment are looking brighter.

"We anticipate that global demand for OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays, dual-lens cameras, fingerprint technology and touch screens could remain key industry drivers in 2017 and sustain the manufacturing momentum for the first half of 2017," said OCBC economist Selena Ling, who expects Nodx growth of zero to 2 per cent this year.

ANZ economist Ng Weiwen said yesterday's strong Nodx numbers "corroborate with recent trade data which showed a notable rebound in exports in most Asian countries".

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