SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's on-year export growth beat expectations in March, thanks to a surge in petrochemical and pharmaceutical shipments, a sign the city-state's trade recovery is widening to non-electronic sectors.
Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) in March rose a more-than-expected 16.5 percent from a year earlier, data from trade agency International Enterprise Singapore showed on Monday.
From the previous month, exports fell a seasonally-adjusted 1.1 percent, a smaller-than-expected decline.
A Reuters poll had forecast March exports would expand 10.4 percent from a year earlier and shrink 6.4 percent from February.
"We are still comfortable with the current positive trajectory in terms of exports but a lot is price-based effects so we will have a better sense in the second half of the year," said Standard Chartered economist Edward Lee.
Petrochemical and pharmaceutical exports surged in March on-year, growing 42.8 percent and 17.7 percent respectively.
Singapore's electronic exports grew 5.2 percent from a year ago, but at a more moderate pace compared to the 17.2 percent growth in February.
Singapore has been among a number of export-reliant Asian economies to benefit from a general uptick in global demand in recent months, with the city-state enjoying strong sales of its tech products.
Analysts say that March numbers mitigate fears that Singapore's strong export numbers are mostly dependent on the electronics sector.
"It is not such a narrow base any more because non-electronics also performed," said Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy for OCBC Bank.
This comes after Singapore's exports in February rose the at their fastest on-year pace since February 2012, when they jumped 32.2 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed, fuelled by demand for the city state's tech products and a sharp jump in shipments to China.
The city-state's electronics sector has been key in driving the stellar growth in exports over the last few months, helping the trade-dependent economy avert a recession.
Despite the strong numbers, analysts say they are cautious about the outlook with analysts wary about global trade in the coming months.
"The reflation story is starting to die off a little bit and the volumes have started to come down. We saw a pretty huge inventory build up at the beginning of the year in China, and that phase appears to be coming to an end," said Vaninder Singh, an economist at RBS.
Singapore's economy has struggled over the past two years. In the first quarter of this year, it shrank 1.9 percent from the previous three months and grew 2.5 percent from a year earlier.
Singapore's central bank last week held its policy steady and warned of risks to the global outlook, even with recent improvements in exports and broad economic growth momentum.
Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Sam Holmes