SINGAPORE'S manufacturing sector contracted for the seventh straight month in January.
The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) was at 49.0 in January, down 0.5 from December's figure.
Figures above 50 denote business conditions improving from the previous month, and below 50 a worsening.
The electronics cluster, which takes up a big weightage in the whole manufacturing sector, also slumped for its seventh consecutive month. Its PMI was at 48.5 in January, down 0.4 from December.
The Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM), which released the figures on Tuesday, attributed the low headline PMI to a decline in new orders, a drop in factory output, and lower employment.
On top of that, new export orders continued to contract since January last year, whereas stocks of finished goods continued to accumulate since April last year.
Inventories, however, expanded for the second consecutive month, with a faster rate of supplier deliveries, but economists cautioned against optimism.
"I think it might be that manufacturers are front-loading production ahead of the Chinese New Year lull period," said OCBC economist Selena Ling.
Singapore's manufacturing PMI data followed recent releases by China and the high-tech bellwethers of South Korea and Taiwan, painting a broader regional trend of weak demand for Asia's manufacturing goods.
China's official PMI fell for the sixth consecutive month to 49.4 in January. South Korea's PMI in January dipped to 49.5 from the previous 50.7.
Taiwan, on the other hand, saw its manufacturing sector expanding for a second consecutive month, at 50.6 in January.