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Sharp fall in Singapore firms' confidence in trade volumes ahead: HSBC survey

PSA International Pte Ltd (PSA) said on Thursday that it handled 64.10 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) of containers at its port projects around the world for the year ended Dec 31, 2015, down 2 per cent from the previous year.

HSBC Trade Confidence Index on Tuesday showed the latest score for Singapore fell sharply to just 109 points in the second half of 2015, as concerns over global economic growth weighed on the sentiment of domestic firms.

Those surveyed in Singapore were overall more pessimistic than their peers in Asia, with the average trade confidence score for Asia at 118.

Singapore's score also fell from the first half of this year, when it stood at 135 points.

Less than half of respondents in Singapore now expect trade volumes to increase over the next six months, a drastic fall in confidence from the 80 per cent that said six months ago that trade volumes would head higher. More than a fifth of respondents now expect trade volumes to decline.

Joseph Arena, head of trade and receivables finance, HSBC Singapore, said: "Sluggish regional trade from a slowing of China, lower commodity demand and prices, reduced consumer activity and currency volatility have weighed on Singapore's economic growth this year."

Although Asia, and China in particular, was still viewed as the most promising region for trade, the number of Singapore firms which were optimistic there fell from 87 per cent to 61 per cent. The market darling Indonesia has also lost a lot of support, with the number of Singapore firms looking to Indonesia as a source of opportunity falling sharply from 20 per cent to 3 per cent.

Singapore firms were notably more upbeat about Europe with 12 per cent of firms citing the region as a promising opportunity for business growth, up from just 3 per cent six months earlier.

The hope now is that while near-term prospects remain weak, a broadening recovery in advanced economies should spur faster global trade next year and benefit the country.

The HSBC Trade Confidence Index covers a total of 23 markets and is the largest trade confidence survey globally. The current survey comprises six-month views of 6,300 exporters, importers and traders from small and mid-market enterprises including Singapore.