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21 May 2010

Singapore economy grows faster than forecast

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Singapore’s economy expanded at a faster pace than initially estimated last quarter as rising global demand boosted manufacturing and the opening of the island’s first casino spurred tourism, the Bloomberg News reported.

Gross domestic product grew an annualized 38.6 percent from the previous three months in the first quarter, compared with an April estimate of 32.1 percent, the trade ministry said in a statement today. That was more than the median estimate for a 33.4 percent increase in a Bloomberg News survey of eight economists.

Singapore has raised its growth forecast twice this year and the central bank said last month it will allow the currency to strengthen. The higher projection came before an escalation of Europe’s debt crisis, which forced the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to offer financial assistance worth as much as 750 billion euros ($929 billion) to countries under attack from speculators.

“The upswing in Singapore has been broadening out from exports and manufacturing towards the services sector and that process has got a long way to run,” Kevin Grice, an economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London, said before the report. “While there is greater uncertainty in global markets since last month, it doesn’t warrant a rethink” of the monetary policy stance.

Growth is also accelerating in other parts of Asia. Japan said today its economy expanded at the fastest pace in three quarters in the period ended March 31 as an export-led recovery spreads to consumer and business spending. Neighboring Malaysia last week reported a first-quarter expansion that was the quickest in a decade.

Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports will probably gain between 15 percent and 17 percent in 2010, from a previous projection of as much as 12 percent, the trade promotion agency said.

The economy grew 15.5 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, compared with the median estimate for a 13.7 percent gain in a Bloomberg News survey of nine economists and a 13.1 percent expansion reported last month.

Singapore’s government expects the economy to grow as much as 9 percent this year.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, which uses the currency instead of interest rates to conduct monetary policy, said April 14 it will “re-centre the exchange rate policy band at the prevailing level” of the Singapore dollar, shifting to a stronger range for the currency to trade in. The central bank guides the Singapore dollar against a basket of currencies within an undisclosed band.


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