SINGAPORE: Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) fell last month in its first decline since March, with shipments to most of its major trading partners falling.
Exports fell 2.6 per cent in November year-on-year, a sharp contraction from the revised 8.2 per cent rise the month before, data from trade agency Enterprise Singapore showed on Monday (Dec 17).
This was weaker than the 1.2 per cent increase predicted by economists in a Reuters poll.
On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, exports decreased 4.2 per cent in November after growing 4.2 per cent in October. The poll predicted a 0.6 per cent expansion from the month before.
DECLINE IN EXPORTS TO CHINA
Exports to top trading partners like China, Indonesia and Europe declined. Shipments to China – Singapore's largest export market – fell 16 per cent in November from a year earlier, compared with the previous month's 25.8 per cent decline.
The contraction in shipments to China comes as economists grow increasingly worried about the impact on demand as a result of Sino-US trade tensions, with many expecting the dispute to hurt Singapore's trade-dependent economy in months to come.
"While domestic exports to the US remained healthy, shipments to China continued to weigh on overall growth," Ms Sian Fenner, an economist at Oxford Economics said in a research note to clients.
"Notwithstanding the recent truce in the US-China trade war, we think weaker Chinese import demand, amid increased trade protectionism, will increasingly weigh on exports and Singapore GDP growth over 2019," she added.
CIMB economist Song Seng Wun told Reuters: "China growth has moderated, and that's the primary reason (for the declining exports to China),
"If you look at retail sales, it's quite indicative that Chinese macro fundamentals have weakened," he added.
China's November retail sales grew at their weakest pace since 2003 and industrial output rose the least in nearly three years as the economy lost further momentum, heaping pressure on Beijing to defuse its trade dispute with the United States.
Shipments of non-electronic products fell 5.2 per cent year-on-year, as pharmaceutical exports slowed significantly from the 89.7 per cent surge seen in the previous month to 8.4 per cent in November.
Other contributors to the decline in non-electronic exports were non-monetary gold (-77.9 per cent), specialised machinery (-12.8 per cent) and petrochemicals (-7.8 per cent).
ELECTRONICS EXPORTS ROSE FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS YEAR
However, electronic exports rose 4.5 per cent in November, recovering from a 3.6 per cent decline the previous month. Shipments of ICs, consumer electronics and telecommunications equipment grew by 27.9 per cent, 11.5 per cent and 3.4 per cent, respectively.
UOB said in a note that the positive trend "is unlikely to last due to the high base effects from 2017 and the decelerating global tech cycle".
It added: "We also continue to be concerned about the US-China trade developments which will certainly cloud the outlook for a very trade-dependent Singapore."
Total trade rose by 7.7 per cent in November, following a 20.1 per cent growth in the previous month.