Singapore exports in biggest fall on record: govt

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 17 2009 03:15 PM | Updated as of Feb 17 2009 11:15 PM

SINGAPORE - Singapore's key exports in January fell by the largest amount on record, the government said Tuesday, releasing data showing further evidence of the city-state's deepening recession.

Non-oil domestic exports fell by 34.8 percent in January compared with the same month a year earlier, said International Enterprise Singapore, the government's trade promotion agency.

It is the biggest fall since the government began year-on-year comparisons in 1977 and exceeds the previous record of a 30.7 percent drop in September 2001, after Al-Qaeda's attacks on the United States.

January's decline was the ninth consecutive contraction and was almost in line with the 34.5 percent median forecast in a poll of economists by Dow Jones Newswires.

The decline last month exceeded the 20.8 percent year-on-year fall recorded in December, the data showed.

Shipments to all 10 key markets were lower in January, with exports to the major United States market falling 50.0 percent, the agency said.

The city-state is Southeast Asia's wealthiest economy in terms of gross domestic product per capita but its heavy dependence on trade makes it sensitive to economic disturbances in developed nations, whose economies are suffering in the world's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Singapore in October became the first Asian economy to enter recession.

NODX to China -- whose economy slowed dramatically at the end of 2008 -- were down 51.6 percent, the agency said.

On a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, NODX fell by 3.2 percent in January after the previous month's 11 percent decrease, it added.

The key exports were worth 10.04 billion Singapore dollars ($6.69 billion) in January, a fall of 34.8 percent from a year earlier, data showed.

Almost 40 percent of the NODX value comes from electronic products such as disk drives but the category fell by 38.4 percent last month.

That was the sector's worst single-month fall since September 2001, said Song Seng Wun, regional economist with CIMB-GK Research.

Non-electronic exports, including chemicals, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals, were down 32.4 percent, International Enterprise Singapore said.

Overall, the January fall was bad, "but it could have been worse," Song said.

"It's bad, but in line with what we see in Taiwan, Korean and Chinese markets."

Singapore twice downgraded its growth forecasts in January.

The government now sees shrinkage of between 2.0 and 5.0 percent for this year, after estimated growth of 1.2 percent in 2008.

But Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam warned this month the economic crisis will be drawn out.

"We are seeing continued momentum in the economy declining week by week," he said.