SINGAPORE: Singapore's trade numbers continued a downward streak in November as its exports declined for the ninth straight month, according to official data released on Tuesday (Dec 17).
Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) declined by 5.9 per cent last month from a year ago, following a plunge of 12.5 per cent the month before, data from Enterprise Singapore showed.
The fall was mainly due to a decrease in electronic domestic exports, which outweighed the growth in non-electronics, the trade agency said.
On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, exports grew by 5.8 per cent in November after falling a revised 3.1 per cent in October.
Shipments of electronics fell by 23.3 per cent on a year-on-year basis, following a decline of 16.4 per cent the previous month.
Contributing the most to the decline were integrated circuits (-36.5 per cent), PCs (-25.1 per cent) and disk drives (-35.7 per cent).
"The global slowdown in smartphone and PC demand, in addition to the ongoing trade war, has had a negative impact on domestic electronic shipments and industrial production," said Howie Lee, an economist at OCBC.
"There are emerging signs that the electronics sector is beginning to turn the tide, however, with both disk media and diodes posting year-on-year growth after at least twelve months of contraction."
As the nominal value of electronics exports in November was also largely unchanged from October and is the highest since January 2019, this lends support to the hypothesis that the sector might have bottomed out since the mid-2019, added Mr Lee.
Non-electronic exports grew by 1.3 per cent in November, climbing back up after a 11.2 per cent decline in October.
Non-monetary gold (249.3 per cent), specialised machinery (15.5 per cent) and non-electric engines & motors (40.1 per cent) contributed the most to the growth.
Exports to the majority of Singapore's top markets declined in November, except for the US, Thailand and Indonesia. The largest contributors to the decline were Hong Kong (-27.6 per cent), the EU 28 (-10 per cent) and China (-6.8 per cent).
"The return to expansion in exports to the Indonesian and Thai markets are particularly encouraging, given that growth rates for both hovered in the red for 12 and 8 months respectively," said Mr Lee in a report to CNA.
Mr Lee said that a return to trade growth with neighbouring economies suggests a turning of the tide in global goods demand, even as trade in the region has largely taken a hit in 2019 due to the slowdown in demand for goods globally
Total trade decreased 5.9 per cent on year, as imports fell by 5.8 per cent and exports declined by 6 per cent.
The NODX growth for 2019 is expected at -9.1 per cent year-on-year, said Mr Lee, with the 2020 NODX forecast to return an expansion of 2 per cent to 4 per cent.
"The low base beginning last December suggests that November’s contraction of 5.9 per cent year-on-year might possibly be the last in a run stretching back from March 2019; we are hopeful of a return to expansion from December 2019 onwards, although ebbs and flows are to be expected given the continued volatility in world trade," added Mr Lee.
"Consistent with our earlier views, the possible year-on-year rebound in shipments in 2020 is likely largely due to the low base from this year, but there remains room for higher growth, especially if US-China trade relations can maintain its current status quo or even reach a more comprehensive phase two trade deal in the months ahead."