SINGAPORE: Singapore's non-oil domestic exports (NODX) rebounded4.9 per cent year-on-year in February, following a sharp drop the previous month, data from trade agency Enterprise Singapore showed on Monday (Mar 18).
The February reading beat economists' expectations, and is a sharp recovery from January when NODX contracted 10.1 per cent year-on-year, its biggest fall in more than two years.
"This was the first positive year-on-year print after three consecutive declines, but this was largely attributable to a low base last year due to the timing of the Chinese New Year festive season," noted Ms Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank.
Electronic exports remained in contractionary territory as it decreased by 8 per cent year-on-year, albeit an improvement from January's easing -15.9 per cent print.
Disk media products, PCs and diodes and transistors contracted by 42.2 per cent, 28.9 per cent and 29.6 per cent respectively, contributing the most to the decrease in electronic NODX.
Non-electronic products grew by 9.4 per cent year-on-year in February, after January's 7.9 per cent decline.
Overall, exports to Singapore's top 10 markets increased in February except for Japan, South Korea, the European Union and Indonesia.
The largest contributors to the NODX growth were China (34.4 per cent), Hong Kong (41.9 per cent) and the US (6.6 per cent).
On a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, exports expanded by 16 per cent over January, due to growth in both electronic and non-electronic exports.
Total trade increased by 3.3 per cent year-on-year in February, extending the 4.2 per cent growth in January.
Ms Ling said that she expects the rest of the year to remain challenging, given the US-China trade concerns and a waning technology cycle.
"For the full year of 2019, there is still downside risk for NODX growth which we believe could be flat to marginally negative on-year," Ms Ling said.
"March could provide a better reading of the underlying picture of NODX after the Jan-Feb volatility. Still, given that recent global growth forecast downgrades suggest rising business caution ahead amid a waning technology cycle, and recent economic data prints for China also remained mixed, there is little evidence to suggest that a turnaround in global demand is round the corner at this juncture," she added.
Nomura analysts Euben Paracuelles and Charnon Boonnuch also remain cautious on their expectations.
"We expect the improvement in NODX to be short-lived considering the global tech downcycle and as our leading export indicator for Asia has weakened further," they said.