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SINGAPORE'S manufacturing sector expanded less than expected in January, with factory output rising just 0.9 per cent on a year-on-year basis - far lower than the market's consensus forecast of a 3.3 per cent increase.
January's meagre rise in industrial production was thanks to the biomedical manufacturing cluster, which posted an increase of 5.3 per cent.
Excluding the volatile biomedical sector, total manufacturing output would have been unchanged.
Indeed, the turnaround in biomedical manufacturing, coupled with a 4.1 per cent rise in precision engineering output, was not enough to offset contractions in the transport engineering (-2.2 per cent), chemicals (-0.5 per cent), and general manufacturing (-0.3 per cent) clusters.
Production in the key electronics cluster - which makes up a third of the industrial production index - was unchanged in January.
Releasing the data on Thursday, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) said that after adjusting for seasonal factors, industrial production contracted 4.7 per cent month on month in January. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, output would have fallen 4.6 per cent.
The month-on-month performance was also worse than private-sector economists had anticipated. According to an earlier Bloomberg poll, they had been expecting factory output to decline by a smaller 2.4 per cent in January from December, on a seasonally adjusted basis.