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December 28, 2008

Singapore: Manufacturing sector shows 7.5% drop in Nov 2008

Singapore's manufacturing output fell 7.5 percent in November, according to the latest data, as exports from the recession-hit economy suffer during a global slowdown, reported AFP.

The 7.5-percent decline, compared with the same month last year, was less than an average 15.0 percent drop forecast in a Dow Jones Newswires poll of economists.

Gains in pharmaceutical production could not outweigh falls in most other categories, the preliminary data from Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) showed.

But increased biomedical manufacturing, which includes pharmaceuticals, pushed output up by 6.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis in November from October, EDB said.

Singapore's manufacturing sector accounts for nearly a quarter of economic output. Virtually all of the production heads for foreign markets, an indicator of Singapore's dependence on the health of the global economy, analysts say.

With key markets the European Union and the United States in recession, Singapore's exports have been hurt and the city-state in October became the first Asian economy to enter recession.

The numbers were "a little better than people expected" but most gains came from the notoriously volatile pharmaceutical sector, said David Cohen, director of Asian forecasting at global research house Action Economics.

Pharmaceutical output grew 17.5 percent in November, the EDB said. Medical technology, the other component of biomedical manufacturing, dropped by 15.4 percent but overall biomedical output rose 14.9 percent, EDB said.

Consumer electronics and information-communications output fell by 58.2 percent while semiconductors dropped 17.6 percent, helping to drag total output in the electronics sector down by 19.4 percent last month, it said.

The chemical sector fell by 20.1 percent in November, on lower petrochemical and petroleum output, while precision engineering output fell by 19.1 percent and general manufacturing -- which includes printing -- declined by 1.7 percent, EDB said.

An increase in ship repairs and aerospace output boosted the transport engineering sector by 5.2 percent in November, the data showed.

Cohen said the economy is likely to grow less than the government forecast of 2.5 percent this year -- "maybe closer to two percent".

Next year, he added, growth should come in at the lower end of the government's 2009 projection, which ranges from a contraction of 1.0 percent to growth of 2.0 percent.

"I think the global demand is still slowing down, which is reflected in the electronics sector," he said, adding that advance fourth-quarter GDP figures due on January 2 are expected to provide further evidence that Singapore is in recession.

"The hope is it will bottom out by the middle of next year, which still seems reasonable," he said, adding that some downside risk remains.

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