Factory output falls 2.4% in May
A positive result in April proved a false dawn for struggling manufacturers with output slumping last month as factories scramble to contain the fallout from the trade war.
Overall output declined 2.4 per cent last month compared with the same month last year - a bigger contraction than the 1.8 per cent fall forecast by analysts in a Bloomberg poll.
It was also a bitter pill after the 0.1 per cent rise in April but not as bad as the 4 per cent fall in March, which had been the sector's first contraction in more than a year.
If the volatile biomedical manufacturing is excluded, the decline last month would have been a steeper 4.9 per cent.
The main culprit was the key electronics sector, where production dived 10.8 per cent compared with May last year, according to Economic Development Board data yesterday.
Observers put the poor showing down to the trade war.
SIM Global Education senior lecturer Tan Khay Boon said the tariff dispute shows no sign of abatement "and the effect has changed from a negative sentiment to an actual decline in manufacturing demand".
By contrast, biomed production grew 8.8 per cent last month, with pharmaceuticals output up 15.9 per cent, while medical technology fell 6.8 per cent due to lower export demand for medical devices.
The precision engineering cluster's output dipped 4.7 per cent.
Chemicals output also slipped, down 0.4 per cent, mainly due to the 9.5 per cent decline in petrochemicals production that was mainly a result of maintenance shutdowns in some plants.
Transport engineering output advanced 2.9 per cent.
The aerospace segment was up 17.2 per cent on the back of more repair and maintenance jobs from commercial airlines.
General manufacturing output was up 4.9 per cent, led by the food, beverages and tobacco segment, which posted growth of 9.3 per cent due to more beverage products being produced.