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Singapore's September non-oil exports come in below expectations, but up from August

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Singapore's non-oil domestic exports (NODX) grew by a solid 8.3 per cent in September, coming in under economist expectations even as it picked up the pace from the 5 per cent expansion in August, according to Enterprise Singapore data released on Wednesday.

SINGAPORE’S non-oil domestic exports (NODX) grew by a solid 8.3 per cent in September, coming in under economist expectations even as it picked up pace from the 5 per cent expansion in August, according to Enterprise Singapore data released on Wednesday.

This was driven once again by the seasonally volatile pharma sector and buoyed by favourable base effects. Economists had forecast growth to come in at 11.1 per cent.

Growth was led by non-electronic NODX, which went up 11.9 per cent in September, following a rise of 7.8 per cent in the previous month.

Pharmaceuticals (67.5 per cent), non-monetary gold (23.7 per cent) and food preparations (33.9 per cent) contributed the most to growth.

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Electronic NODX continued its downward trajectory, declining by 0.9 per cent in September, easing slightly from a 1.5 per cent decrease in the previous month. This was dragged down mostly by diodes and transistors, parts of personal computers and integrated circuits.

Exports to Singapore’s top 10 markets as a whole grew in September, driven by the US, the European Union and Thailand. The exceptions were China, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong.

Non-oil re-exports – seen as a proxy for wholesale trade – expanded by 13.3 per cent in September, down slightly from the 14.1 per cent growth in the previous month.

Total trade went up by 13.5 per cent in September, holding steady from the 13.3 per cent growth in August.

Economists are mostly ho-hum about Singapore's export outlook, as the ongoing trade war continues to muddy the data.

Maybank Kim Eng economists Chua Hak Bin and Lee Ju Ye noted: "Third-quarter trade volumes may have been distorted by the escalating US-China trade war, as companies frontloaded exports before tariff increases."

Looking forward, they expect electronic exports to "remain lacklustre" in the upcoming months as the global electronics cycle fades and the trade war disrupts supply chains.

Nomura economists Euben Paracuelles and Brian Tan said: "Overall, we do not expect NODX growth to sustain at these levels, as it has been primarily the result of a favourable base effect, which should reverse in October."

They expect a drop in Singapore's exports "further down the road", in line with the rest of Asia.