Slowing China exports a worry despite Q1 numbers, Latest Business News - The New Paper

Slowing China exports a worry despite Q1 numbers

This article is more than 12 months old

Singapore Q1 GDP likely higher on manufacturing boost, but outlook still cloudy

Singapore's economy likely performed better than initially expected in the first quarter thanks to a surge in factory output, although the outlook is clouded by slowing exports to China, according to analysts surveyed by Reuters.

The median estimate by the 11 economists polled put gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 2.7 per cent in the January-March quarter from a year earlier.

That would be better than the official advance estimate of 2.5 per cent growth released last month.

On a seasonally adjusted, annualised basis, GDP probably contracted by 1 per cent in the January-March quarter, the poll showed, compared to the advance estimate of a 1.9 per cent contraction.

Singapore's manufacturing output beat expectations in March, up 10.2 per cent from a year earlier, making analysts revise upwards their first quarter GDP forecasts, but weak export numbers in April cast a shadow on the outlook.

"We're on watch mode," said Mizuho Bank senior economist, Vishnu Varathan, adding that he is not revising his full-year GDP forecast.

"Q1 is not compelling enough for us to suggest suddenly the prospects are a lot more upbeat."

Other analysts doubt that the better than expected growth of the last two quarters can be sustained. "We reckon that it will be challenging for the recent strength in exports and production to sustain in the second half of 2017," said ANZ economist Ng Weiwen.

He said Singapore could face headwinds due to its reliance on growth that was mostly driven by the electronics sector and by trade with China.

"We know that this recovery is externally driven by exports," Ng said. "Exports are geographically and narrowly driven by China."

Singapore's non-oil domestic exports to China grew much slower in April at 10.9 percent from a year earlier, compared to 45.5 per cent growth in March. - REUTERS