NON-OIL domestic exports (NODX) got off to a bad start in the second half of the year, with the key NODX sinking 10.6 per cent year on year in July and extending the 2.4 per cent dip in June.
The drop exceeded the 2.5 per cent fall the market was expecting.
Already, the NODX has tumbled year on year in four of the first six months, leading to a 4.5 per cent decline in the first half of 2016.
Private-sector economists have expressed expectation that the economy would bounce back in the last six months of the year, but now - given July's numbers - they are not so sure it will.
Citigroup's Kit Wei Zheng said: "(The July trade) data suggests headwinds to external demand are clearly still significant... and we suspect de-stocking pressures could persist and weigh on manufacturing output."
Continued relocation of upstream production to China may also pose a structural drag on exports in the medium term, he added.
Some economists are now hoping that, at best, the NODX in the second half of the year would not fall by as much as in the first. UOB Bank's Francis Tan said global trade already seems to be picking up some pace, and that he expects that the NODX would continue to fall in the second half - but only by 0.6 per cent.
International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, which released the latest trade figures on Wednesday, apparently shares the sentiment; last week, the trade-promotion agency revised NODX's full-year growth forecast from between -5 and -3 per cent to between -4 and -3 per cent.
July's NODX did better month on month, dipping a seasonally-adjusted 1.8 per cent after a 13 per cent crash in June. Still, it was more than the 0.3 per cent dip the market had expected.
ANZ's Ng Weiwen said the impact of Brexit, at least for the time being, has been marginal for Singapore; NODX shipments to the EU actually rose 3.0 per cent year-on-year. It was the only major market for which Singapore's NODX posted growth last month; shipments to the rest of the 10 top markets were down.
OCBC Bank's Selena Ling said: "The July performance was a step back, with nine of the top 10 NODX markets shrinking, compared to June, when half the top 10 NODX markets expanded."
The big worry is China, Singapore's biggest market. NODX exports to China fell 16.6 per cent in July, against the 9.9 per cent drop in June. Citigroup's Mr Kit noted that this was the 13th straight fall for NODX shipments to China.
DBS Bank's Irvin Seah said: "The slowdown in China is the main concern, but sluggish growth in the US and uncertainties surrounding the euro zone are not helping."
IE Singapore listed China, the US and Indonesia as the top three contributors to the NODX's decline last month. NODX shipments to the US plunged 19.1 per cent; shipments to Indonesia fell 22.6 per cent.
Ms Ling said the NODX's slump in July was partly due to a relatively high base in July 2015, but still, the decline was broad-based. The electronics NODX dived 12.9 per cent, the fifth consecutive monthly drop; she noted that it was also the first double-digit dip since February 2015.
July's electronics NODX was dragged down by lower domestic exports of personal computers (-36 per cent), parts of integrated circuits (-46.3 per cent) and diodes and transistors (-19.5 per cent). The electronic NODX dipped 1.7 per cent in June.
The non-electronic NODX, which slipped 2.6 per cent in June, fell 9.5 per cent in July - attributed mainly to the drop in exports of petrochemicals (-35 per cent), civil-engineering equipment parts (-58.3 per cent) and specialised machinery (-16.7 per cent).