Singapore’s February Export Growth Slowed as Electronics, Drug Sales Ease

Singapore’s export growth slowed more than economists expected in February as electronics shipments fell after the Lunar New Year holidays curbed demand from China for manufactured parts.

Non-oil domestic exports climbed 7.8 percent from a year earlier, after a revised 20.7 percent gain in January, the island’s trade promotion agency said in a statement in Singapore today. The median forecast of 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for an increase of 10.5 percent.

Overseas sales are set to ease this year after a global economic rebound spurred Singapore export growth to the fastest pace in seven years in 2010. The biggest Japanese earthquake on record, with its ensuing tsunami and nuclear plant crisis, may further damp shipments.

“Manufacturing plants in China, key buyers of Singapore manufactured components and intermediate products typically enter a lull period during the festive season,” Irvin Seah, an economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Singapore, said before the report. There will be “some impact” from the Japan disaster over the next few months, before exports get a lift during the reconstruction period, he said.

Non-oil shipments may increase 8 percent to 10 percent in 2011, the government predicts. Exports grew 22.8 percent last year.

Electronics shipments by companies including Venture Corp., Singapore’s biggest publicly traded electronics contract manufacturer, declined 12.8 percent in February from a year earlier, after gaining 5.8 percent the previous month.

Pharmaceutical Volatility

Non-electronics shipments, which include petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals, gained 19.7 percent. Pharmaceutical shipments added 1.3 percent after advancing 38.6 percent in January.

The performance of Singapore’s pharmaceutical industry is volatile as production swings by companies such as Sanofi- Aventis SA can cause industrial output to fluctuate from month to month. Drug companies sometimes shut plants for cleaning before making different products.

Singapore’s non-oil exports rose a seasonally adjusted 2.9 percent last month from January, when they gained a revised 2.1 percent, today’s report showed.

“Though key electronics and pharmaceutical exports appear to be in a soft patch over the last two months, we reckon that this will not last for long,” Seah said. “Recovery in the U.S. is solidifying with increasingly strong consumption data. In addition, as long as Asia central banks do not overkill in their monetary tightening, we should see external demand picking up again towards the second half of the year.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net

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