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S'pore manufacturing posts broad-based improvement in April; headline PMI at 49.8, up by 0.4

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A KEY indicator of Singapore's manufacturing activity rose again in April, with broad-based improvements seen across the sector even as it remains mired in a 10-month-long recession.

A KEY indicator of Singapore's manufacturing activity rose again in April, with broad-based improvements seen across the sector even as it remains mired in a 10-month-long recession.

This uptick has led to some economists seeing the slowdown for manufacturing hitting a bottom soon.

"There were broad-based improvements across the board ... suggesting nascent signs of a near-term bottom," said OCBC's Selena Ling.

The April reading of the manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) was at 49.8, an increase of 0.4 from the previous month, said the Singapore Institute of Purchasing & Materials Management (SIPMM) on Tuesday. The electronics sector's PMI also went up by 0.5 to 49.5.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion, and those below, a contraction.

This meant that the manufacturing sector is still contracting since June last year, but SIPMM noted that "the latest readings showed general improvements in almost all indicators, albeit most major indicators remain in contraction".

Noticeably, the PMI for new orders rose by 0.6 to 49.8 in April - the highest level in nine months. New export orders rose, too, by 0.5 to 49.6, its highest in five months.

Order backlog expanded for the first time after previously recording 14 consecutive months of contraction. It was at 50.5, up from 49.4 in March.

"With new orders improving and backlog clearing, it may also mean that the inventory cycle is turning which may also signal more improvement in the months ahead," explained Standard Chartered's Jeff Ng.

However, DBS' Irvin Seah was doubtful of how sustainable this recovery will be. Pointing out that expansionary PMIs in May and June last year went back into contractionary mode, he noted: "Watch out for a PMI head fake... it remains to be seen whether history will repeat itself again."