Singapore's manufacturing output is likely to expand more slowly this year -- between 10-12% from 1999's 13.8% growth, economists say. Singapore's industrial output index, the main barometer of the sector's health, has been volatile, with February growth (9.4% over February 1999) recording a steep slowdown from January (28.2% growth over January 1999). The index rose 7.3% year-on-year in December, 19.5% in November, and 24.1% in October. "The manufacturing sector output growth may be volatile on a month-to-month basis, but I am optimistic that it may show a steady, albeit, slower growth this year," says Eddie Lee, an economist at Vickers Ballas & Co.. Echoing Lee's views, Liew Yin Sze, an economist at J.M. Sassoon Co. Ltd., said that manufacturing growth will be firm in 2000, but growth will be slower versus a year earlier. "I expect an average 9.5-10.0% growth in manufacturing output in 2000." Liew based his forecast on tighter money policy in markets such as the U.S. this year compared with last year's low-interest-rate environment. Song Seng Wun, regional economist at G.K. Goh Securities, also says manufacturing output will depend critically on U.S. economic performance. "Looking at orders for electronic products, it looks robust," Wun says. "If that trend continues, there is room for the manufacturing sector to surprise with figures on the upside. But it depends on how the Federal Reserve acts in light of the strong pace of the U.S. economy's growth," he said.