Singapore exports up by 17.6% in January on growth in non-electronics shipments

SINGAPORE exports opened the year on a strong note, with non-oil domestic exports (NODX) up by 17.6 per cent year on year in January.

The latest trade print, which exceeded private-sector analysts’ forecast of 12.4 per cent, was mainly due to shipments of non-electronics such as ship structure, specialised machinery and petrochemicals, trade agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG) said on Thursday (Feb 17).

“The latest NODX data suggest external demand is holding up and likely to continue supporting manufacturing activity this year,” said Brian Tan, an economist at Barclays. He added that Singapore’s economic recovery may lag behind North Asia but should “perform relatively well compared with the rest of South-east Asia”.

Similarly, HSBC economist Yun Liu said: “On a sequential basis, this represented NODX’s fastest growth in 11 years. While overall manufacturing growth will likely moderate in 2022 given 2021’s high base, the sector will remain a firm growth pillar.”

Electronics NODX grew by 14 per cent, compared with 13.6 per cent in the month before, while non-electronics shipments expanded by 18.6 per cent, against 19.9 per cent previously.

January’s overall NODX was a tad slower than the 18.4 per cent growth notched in December 2021, with Oxford Economics analysts Priyanka Kishore and Jung Sung-Eun commenting: “As we had expected, trade momentum has slowed at the start of 2022 after ending 2021 on a strong note due to ongoing supply side shortages and the retightening of restrictions amid the Omicron wave.”

They noted that the pick-up in NODX was offset by weaker re-exports and a slowdown in imports, but added that export momentum should improve in the second half of 2022, as global supply chain disruptions ease gradually and demand rises in South-east Asia.

“Sustained global demand for semiconductors should also underpin both industrial production and manufacturing exports, though at a more moderate pace following the strong outturn last year,” they wrote.

Headline NODX rose to 7 of the Republic’s top 10 markets in January, on strong demand from the US, mainland China and the European Union for products such as specialised machinery, non-monetary gold, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

NODX to emerging markets also rose, amid demand from South Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. On the other hand, shipments to Thailand, Hong Kong and South Korea declined.

Non-oil re-exports, a proxy for wholesale trade, grew by 21.8 per cent, easing from the 26 per cent growth in the month before.

Total trade rose by 25 per cent in January – compared with 31.4 per cent before – which ESG said reflected the increase in both oil and electronics trade.

On a monthly, seasonally adjusted basis, NODX was up by 5 per cent – compared with 2.6 per cent in the previous month – to S$18.1 billion.