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Singapore factories post modest 0.7% growth in February

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Singapore factory output inched up in February, beating fears of a second month of decline.

SINGAPORE factory output inched up in February, beating fears of a second month of decline.

Lifted by the biomedical sector, manufacturers produced a modest 0.7 per cent more than in the year before, according to data from the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Tuesday. Private-sector economists polled by Bloomberg had guided for a median dip of 0.4 per cent.

But, when biomedical manufacturing was left out, industrial production fell by 1.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, the size of January’s year-on-year contraction was revised from a preliminary figure of 3.1 per cent, to a more subdued 0.4 per cent.

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Factories were dragged down by the precision engineering cluster, which has been in a tailspin since November 2018. Output tumbled by 14.9 per cent in February, as growth in precision modules and components - on the back of more optical products - could not make up for the 27.8 per cent shrink in machinery and systems with less semiconductor equipment produced.

Singapore’s linchpin electronics cluster also clocked its third straight month of decline, although the fall eased to 1.1 per cent, from 4 per cent in January. The cluster notched growth of 1.1 per cent in semiconductors and 6.8 per cent in other electronic modules and components, but computer peripherals, data storage and infocomms and consumer electronics all languished.

Biomedical manufacturing, on the other hand, saw factory output jump by 13.3 per cent, against 10.3 per cent in January, as drugs posted an expansion of 17.9 per cent on changes to the mix of active pharmaceutical ingredients being produced. The medical technology segment produced 3.3 per cent more year on year, with the EDB citing “sustained export demand”.

Chemicals output rose by 2 per cent, as fragrances fuelled the “other chemicals” segment - although maintenance shutdowns at some plants forced the petroleum, specialities and petrochemicals segments into contraction for the month, the EDB noted.

The transport engineering cluster grew by 4.2 per cent, compared with 10.4 per cent in January, while general manufacturing was up by 4.1 per cent overall, easing from 4.6 per cent before.

On a seasonally adjusted, monthly basis, manufacturing output was down by 4.1 per cent in February, or 0.1 per cent when biomedical production was excluded.