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Singapore factory output beats expectations, inching up 0.1% in April

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Singapore's manufacturing output edged back into growth territory in April, up 0.1 per cent year on year contrary to economists' expectations of a 3.5 per cent fall, and improving from March's revised figure of a 4.3 per cent fall.

SINGAPORE'S manufacturing output edged back into growth territory in April, up 0.1 per cent year on year contrary to economists' expectations of a 3.5 per cent fall, and improving from March's revised figure of a 4.3 per cent fall.

But excluding the volatile biomedical manufacturing cluster, output fell 2.1 per cent, according to Singapore Economic Development Board figures on Friday.

Biomedical manufacturing continued to make the strongest showing, with output up 11.2 per cent. This comprised a 10.9 per cent rise in pharmaceuticals output and a 12 per cent rise in medical technology output, with sustained export demand.

Coming a distant second was the chemicals cluster, with output up 1.9 per cent in April. The "other chemicals" segment grew 9.3 per cent with higher production of fragrances, while specialties output was up 0.9 per cent. In contrast, petrochemicals fell 2.8 per cent, and petroleum refining throughput was down 4.3 per cent due to maintenance shutdowns in some plants.

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Transport engineering output was down 1.1 per cent. A 16.3 per cent rise in the aerospace segment was more than outweighed by declines of 12.8 per cent in land transport and 18.7 per cent in marine and offshore engineering.

Electronics output saw year-on-year decline for a second month, though easing to a 0.6 per cent dip, compared to March's 15.1 per cent fall. Cumulatively, the cluster's output is down 3.2 per cent for the first four months of 2019, compared to the year-ago period.

Within the electronics cluster, the computer peripherals and data storage segments saw declines in April, but semiconductor output growth edged back into positive territory at 0.3 per cent. Infocomms and consumer electronics output was up 1.3 per cent and that of other electronic modules and components, 12.5 per cent.

General manufacturing output was down 1.1 per cent, with growth in food, beverages and tobacco more than outweighed by declines in printing and miscellaneous industries, with the latter reporting lower output in construction-related materials.

Performing worst was precision engineering, with output down 10.4 per cent. Although the precision modules and components segment grew 11.6 per cent, the machinery & systems segment saw output fall 20.6 per cent. In the first four months of the year, precision engineering has been the worst-performing manufacturing cluster, down 12.5 per cent year-on-year.

On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, manufacturing output was up 2.4 per cent in April, or up 5.7 per cent excluding biomedical manufacturing.