The Business Times

Biomedical cluster a drag on Nov output

Four per cent growth below forecast of 5.3 per cent and October's revised 8.3 per cent surge

Published Thu, Dec 26, 2013 · 10:00 PM
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[SINGAPORE] Factory output put on a poor showing last month, growing by a less-than-expected 4 per cent year on year. This was smaller than October's revised 8.3 per cent surge and the 5.3 per cent rise predicted by private-sector economists.

Biomedical and chemical manufacturing, which fell 2.1 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively, are largely to be blamed for the underperformance.

Minus the volatile biomedical manufacturing, factory output would have jumped 5.5 per cent, according to the Economic Development Board which released the latest industrial production numbers yesterday.

Month on month, factory output in November fell a seasonally adjusted 2.8 per cent from October - a bit better than the 3.1 per cent dip expected.

Excluding biomedical manufacturing, factory output tumbled 4.7 per cent month on month.

United Overseas Bank economist Alvin Liew described the latest factory output performance as "lacklustre" but, together with OCBC's Selena Ling, he remains hopeful that the gross domestic product (GDP) will stay within the 3.5-4.0 per cent official growth forecast.

Both also expect manufacturing to improve in 2014 when global demand picks up.

"We are particularly positive on semiconductor demand on the back of healthy Asian semiconductor sales at near 10 per cent monthly growth while the Americas has been registering double-digit growth since June," Mr Liew says in a report.

Ms Ling adds: "We expect that the manufacturing sector will maintain its improvement into 2014 and more than double the expected 1.4 per cent year-on-year growth seen in 2013."

OCBC tips the Singapore economy to expand 3-4 per cent in 2014. UOB has predicted that Singapore's GDP will rise 4.3 per cent next year, backed by a recovery in manufacturing.

For the first 11 months of this year, factory output grew one per cent, in line with UOB's forecast. And Mr Liew says the latest factory output data has not altered UOB's GDP outlook for the fourth quarter.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry will release the advance GDP estimates for the fourth quarter and the full year next Thursday.

EDB's report yesterday on the latest industrial production figures said biomedical manufacturing, which dropped for a second straight month, after slipping 2.8 per cent in October, was pulled down last month by pharmaceuticals which fell 3.2 per cent, easing from a 7.5 per cent decline in October.

Still, biomedical manufacturing output was up 1.7 per cent year to date.

Chemicals were dragged down last month by petroleum which extended its fall from 5.8 per cent in the previous month to 17.2 per cent in November.

Year to date, chemicals stayed up at 0.2 per cent.

Last month's factory output growth was attributed to an 11 per cent rise in electronics which, in turn, was propped up by gains in the electronics modules & components (up 22.7 per cent), computer peripherals (17.9 per cent) and semconductors (17.8 per cent) segments.

It was the eighth consecutive monthly year-on-year increase for electronics, though the increase was less than half that of October's (23.4 per cent). Year to date, electronics rose 1.8 per cent.

Transport engineering continued to be the other outperforming cluster last month, but the the pace of growth slowed from 10.2 per cent in October to a single-digit 6.3 per cent.

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