Singapore factory output up by 16.9% in October on pharmaceuticals rebound

SINGAPORE’S factory sector returned to growth in October, after a worse-than-expected decline in the month before, with help from a rebound in the volatile biomedical manufacturing cluster.

Industrial production rose 16.9 per cent year on year, against the decrease of 2.2 per cent in September, and higher than the median estimate of 14.5 per cent in a private Bloomberg poll.

Biomedical manufacturing production jumped by 56.1 per cent, swinging back from a fall of 35.9 per cent in the month before, as pharmaceuticals output nearly doubled on a year-ago low base, according to figures released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Friday (Nov 26).

When biomedical manufacturing was excluded, Singapore’s overall industrial production grew by a more subdued 9.7 per cent year on year.

Still, all manufacturing clusters were in the black in October. The linchpin electronics industry saw output rise 6.5 per cent, though growth cooled from 7.2 per cent in the month prior, as the key semiconductor segment rose by 3.9 per cent in October, from 6.7 per cent before.

Meanwhile, precision engineering was up 9.1 per cent, down from 31.1 per cent in September. The EDB cited “higher production of semiconductor equipment to cater to the strong capital investment in the global semiconductor industry”, which offset lower output of optical products.

The chemicals cluster expanded by 15.3 per cent, compared with 12.4 per cent previously, on broad-based growth and a year-ago low base for petrochemicals and petroleum.

Extending a recovery from the pandemic-related downturn in shipbuilding and repair, and aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul, transport engineering rose 35.3 per cent, up from 13.8 per cent in September.

General manufacturing production ticked up by 0.8 per cent, compared with a 1.3 per cent dip in September. Growth was led by demand for construction-related products against the year-ago low base, which made up for declines in the printing, and food, beverage and tobacco segments.

On a seasonally adjusted, monthly basis, factory output was up 2.4 per cent, or 1.5 per cent when biomedical manufacturing contributions were excluded.

The latest preliminary figures take Singapore’s year-on-year manufacturing output growth to 12.8 per cent in the first 10 months of 2021.