SINGAPORE, March 18 Singapore's exports plunged
far more than expected in February from a year earlier, hurt by
a sharp drop in shipments of pharmaceuticals and oil rigs in the
Lunar New Year holiday lull.
But electronics recovered slightly from January, after
taking into account seasonal factors, indicating the worst could
be over the city-state's exporters.
"This time around, the weakness in exports was due to
non-electronics," said Barclays economist Leong Wai Ho.
Leong said Singapore's electronics sector could recover
further in coming months, given the recovery in North Asia where
semiconductor plants were running near full capacity.
The city-state's non-oil domestic exports (NODX) fell 30.6
percent last month from a year ago as exports of electronics
dropped 27.4 percent and shipments of pharmaceuticals declined
56.5 percent, trade agency International Enterprises Singapore
(IE Singapore) said on Monday.
Exports of ships and boats, a category that includes
offshore oil rigs, fell 99.4 percent in February from a year
The sharp drop in NODX followed a subdued January when
shipments grew by just 0.4 percent year-on-year despite the
timing on the Lunar New Year.
On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, NODX shrank
2.4 percent even though most economists had forecast an
expansion. IE Singapore said, however, that electronics grew in
February from January after taking into account seasonal
Economists polled by Reuters had expected exports to fall 16
percent year-on-year but rise 4.5 percent month-on-month after
The Singapore dollar fell after the release of the trade
figures, but most commentators attributed the decline to the
U.S. dollar's strength against other currencies.
The Singapore dollar, being pegged to a basket of
currencies, tends to weaken against the greenback when investors
are bearish about the euro and yen.
"We still think the MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) is
more likely to keep its current settings, but sustained weakness
in economic data may increase the odds for an easier policy,"
Credit Agricole senior strategist Frances Cheung said in a note
to clients, referring to the central bank's current bias for a
modest and gradual appreciation of the Singapore dollar.
Singapore's monthly exports tend to be unpredictable because
a significant portion involves inputs for pharmaceuticals and
oil rigs, which can vary sharply from month to month.
The volatility in the data was made worse by the Lunar New
Year holiday, which began on Feb. 10 this year. In 2012, the
holidays started on Jan 23.
Factories in the city-state tend to shut for as long as a
week during the Lunar New Year holidays.
(Reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by Eric Meijer)