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January 2, 2009

Singapore: Economy shrinks 12.5% in Q4
Singapore's economy contracted for a third consecutive quarter in the October-December period as a global slump hurt demand for the city-state's exports, reported the Associated Press.

Gross domestic product shrank a seasonally adjusted 12.5 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter, the Trade and Industry Mininstry said in a statement Friday. The economy fell 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter from the same period a year ago, the ministry said.

The ministry also lowered its GDP forecast for 2009, now expecting a range between a 2 percent contraction and a 1 precent expansion, down from a range of a 1 percent contraction and 2 percent expansion.

The ministry reiterated the economy grew 1.5 percent last year after expanding 7.7 percent in 2007.

In a related story, Reuter quoted the government as saying it now expects gross domestic product this year to come in between a decline of 2 percent and growth of 1 percent, lower than the previous forecast of -1 percent to +2 percent made in November.

The latest forecast comes as Singapore said its economy shrank for a third consecutive quarter, contracting at a seasonally adjusted, annualised pace of 12.5 percent in the October to December period following a revised 5.4 percent decline in July-September.

"There is further downside risk to the latest forecast. We do expect the first quarter to be far worse than fourth-quarter GDP," said Citigroup economist Kit Wei Zheng.

"Manufacturing will contract further, I think it will be double-digits, while services will likely contract from here," said Kit, who added Singapore's first quarter GDP could shrink 6-8 percent from a year ago.

Singapore's economy has contracted for three straight quarters as the global financial crisis pushed its major export markets, including the United States, Japan and the euro zone, into recession.

From a year ago, gross domestic product fell 2.6 percent following a drop of 0.3 percent in the third quarter, advance estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) showed.

The economy grew 1.5 percent for all of 2008, compared with 7.7 percent in 2007.

Singapore last reported three straight quarters of economic contraction in 2001 when the city-state was hammered by the bursting of the dotcom bubble.

"The growth outlook for the regional economies has also deteriorated, with more economies now expected to register negative or flat growth next year," the trade ministry said on Friday.

According to MTI, Singapore's manufacturing sector shrank 9 percent in the fourth quarter from a year ago, while construction grew 13.3 percent and services rose 1.1 percent.

"Manufacturing has definitely been hit very hard by weakness in electronics. We have to see how much of that will spill over to the services sector," said David Cohen of Action Economics.

"Tourist-related activities have seen some drag from the global slowdown."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned in his New Year message on Wednesday that the global financial crisis had hit the island hard and the economic outlook was uncertain.

"We must therefore prepare for a difficult year ahead, and especially the first half of 2009. Our economy will probably contract further," he said.

Singapore reports advance GDP data based largely on information from the first two months of the quarter, and follows up with detailed GDP numbers for the period about five to six weeks later.

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