Reversing a two-month decline, Singapore's manufacturing output grew 6.9% year-on-year in January, government data showed on Feb. 26.
The January figure was largely within economists' expectations for growth of between 2.7% and 8.1%. "The growth was boosted primarily by a surge in output by the biomedical manufacturing cluster," the Economic Development Board (EDB) said. Biomedicals is a volatile sector which covers pharmaceuticals and medical technology. Output had fallen a revised 1.5% year-on-year in December after a 0.5% drop in November, the figures showed.
The biomedical cluster grew 59.8% last month compared with the same month a year earlier. The pharmaceutical component was up 63.1% compared with a year-on-year contraction of 36% in December, EDB figures showed. Output in the medical technology segment rose by 32.6% on increased sales to the U.S., Europe and Japan, it said.
But production in the key electronics sector fell 6.7% year-on-year in January, pulled down partly by a 10.1% fall in semiconductor output as export demand contracted, EDB said. Data storage output and consumer electronics production also fell but computer peripherals grew 14.1%. The January drop in electronics followed gains of 3.9% in December and 6.1% in November, data showed.
"This is a wobbly start for the tech sector for 2008," said Song Seng Wun, regional economist at CIMB-GK Research. He said that while the first quarter is usually a lean period for electronics manufacturers, "it is quieter than usual because of the uncertain outlook for the U.S. and OECD economies."
In the chemicals cluster, which includes petrochemicals, output grew by 4.3%.
Singapore's economy expanded 7.7% in 2007 but the trade ministry foresees a slower pace of 4%-6% this year because of increased risks from the U.S., a major buyer of the country's exports.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008