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Updated quick takes: Singapore exports stay in a rut, put October MAS easing into view

SINGAPORE'S non-oil domestic exports (NODX) plunged 15.6 per cent year-on- year in March, proving that the 2.0 per cent rise in February was what private-sector economists had predicted - a "one-month wonder".

Both electronic and non-electronic shipments were hit, International Enterprise Singapore announced on Monday morning.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected March NODX to fall 13.2 per cent.

Here are some comments by economists:

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Market voices on:

Weiwen Ng, Asean and Pacific at ANZ Research:

"Singapore exports remain entrenched in a rut, raising the odds of downside risks to Singapore's growth which if persist, put an October MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) easing into view.

"The steep year-on-year decline of almost 16 per cent contraction was exacerbated by a high base of comparison in the preceding year. Removing this distorted year-on-year base effect, NODX still only eked a meagre 0.2 per cent on a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis. Clearly, Singapore has not benefitted from mini regional tech upswing.

"Today's dismal print proves the recent improvement in Singapore's manufacturing PMI to be a false dawn rather than a nascent green shoot. There have been some encouraging signs of a basing in manufacturing activity with regional manufacturing PMIs improving notably in March. But for Singapore, a full-fledged recovery is unlikely anytime soon with new orders and new export orders continuing to contract, albeit at a slower pace.

"In sum, we remain cautious on the near-term manufacturing and export outlook. For electronics, with global semiconductor sales easing, the risk is that manufacturers continue to pull back from purchasing of inputs amid a drop in sales. Singapore's recovery from the ongoing Asian trade recession will not be a linear improvement."

Nomura:

"Overall, even looking past the exaggeration from base effects, the data remain consistent with our view that the outlook for the Singapore economy remains weak."

"We note that non-oil re-export (NORX) growth, which is linked to the wholesale trade services sector, also fell to -2.4 per cent year-on-year in March from 1.8 per cent in February (unlike NODX, seasonally adjusted NORX was also down sharply by 7.3 per cent month-on-month)."

"This is consistent with the softening in Q1 services activity...We continue to forecast GDP growth of 1.8 per cent in 2016, slowing from 2.0 per cent in 2015."

Selena Ling, Head of Treasury Research & Strategy, OCBC Bank:

"NODX slumped more than expected by 15.6 per cent year-on-year in Mar, the worst showing since Mar 2013 albeit this was partly due to a high base (+18.5 per cent year-on-year) in Mar 2015."

"There is no light at the end of the tunnel for the currently sluggish external demand conditions. Only 2 of the top 10 NODX markets, namely Japan and HK saw positive growth. The bulk of the other key NODX markets actually registered double-digit yoy contractions, with EU28, China and Indonesia being the key laggards. As such, the global/regional demand outlook remains lackluster and may continue to weigh on Singapore's Q2 2016 GDP growth."

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