March 17, 2017 / 2:28 AM / 3 years ago

Singapore February exports strongest in five years, China shipments surge

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s February non-oil domestic exports (NODX) grew at their fastest pace in five years, fuelled by demand for the city state’s tech products and a sharp jump in shipments to China.

Workers look as a container ship is unloaded at a berth in a PSA International port terminal in Singapore September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su/Files

The stronger-than-expected data adds to optimism of a manufacturing revival for Asian exporters as concerns over trade protectionism and geopolitical risks rise.

Exports in February rose 21.5 percent from a year earlier, data from trade agency International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) showed on Friday.

Non-oil domestic exports rose a seasonally adjusted 1.4 percent in February from January.

A Reuters poll had forecast February exports would expand 12.8 percent from a year earlier and grow 0.8 percent from January.

“The strong numbers were being helped by a favourable base effect because of Lunar New Year,” said ANZ economist Weiwen Ng. The holiday fell in February last year but was celebrated in January this year.

Singapore’s electronics sector was also a factor driving exports, helping the trade-dependent economy avert a recession in the fourth quarter. Integrated circuits made up a bulk of the export growth of the electronics sector.

“The bright spot effectively is still electronic NODX which continued to expand in double digits”, Ng said.

Petrochemical exports also jumped 45.3 percent from a year earlier.

However, despite the stellar numbers, Ng said he remains cautiously optimistic in his outlook which is dependent on “ongoing trade recovery in the region and the reflationary fiscal policy under the Trump administration”.

February’s annual rise was the biggest since February 2012, when exports jumped 32.2 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed. Exports in January rose 8.6 percent, buoyed by strong shipments to China as well as Taiwan and South Korea.

In February, shipments to China soared 65.1 percent from a year earlier, while exports to Europe rebounded, up 28.7 percent, and exports to the United States grew 1.4 percent.

Singapore’s economy has been on the ropes in the last two years with growth slipping to a seven-year low of 1.8 percent in 2016, as exports slowed amid sluggish global growth.

Most analysts now expect Singapore’s central bank to keep monetary policy unchanged at its next policy review in April, after exports and factory activity picked up momentum from late last year.

Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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