Singapore central bank says trade woes spell more uncertainty for global economy

People take photos with the skyline of the financial district of Singapore in the background April 14, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Growth in international trade is lagging global income for the first time in decades, spelling more uncertainty for the world economy, Singapore’s central bank chief Ravi Menon said on Thursday.

“I don’t know if it is a short term blip in the data ... or this is indicative of something more structural. And it is particularly of concern to Asia,” Menon, who is managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said at a seminar organised by the Milken Institute in Singapore

“Are we entering a new era of uncertainty?” Menon queried, underscoring worries among global policy makers about the extent of a slowdown in world demand.

The World Trade Organization in June forecast sluggish trade growth in the third quarter of 2016 accompanying its publication of a quarterly trade barometer for the first time.

The WTO forecast in April the global value of trade in goods would grow by 2.8 percent this year, less than a previous forecast of 3.9 percent.

Trade growth has averaged 5 percent per year since 1990, but has not grown by more than 3 percent since 2011.

Trade-dependent Singapore expects its non-oil domestic exports to fall by 3 percent to 4 percent in 2016 from the year before.

Menon said the other worry for Asia is the tepid growth of private investments in the United States, highlighted by huge cash piles that are not being invested by companies.

A Moody’s Investors Service report earlier this year said U.S. non-financial companies were holding $1.68 trillion in cash at the end of 2015, up 1.8 percent from $1.65 trillion the previous year.

Reporting by Saeed Azhar and Anshuman Daga; Editing by Shri Navaratnam