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Singapore's economy healthier than expected in Q2, recovery broadens
August 11, 2017 / 1:00 AM / 4 months ago

Singapore's economy healthier than expected in Q2, recovery broadens

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s trade-reliant economy grew much faster than initially estimated in the second quarter and more than analysts had expected, with a rebound in services suggesting a broader and more balanced recovery after a stumble early in the year.

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers take selfies in front of a Louis Vuitton shop in Singapore May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo

The city-state’s economy grew 2.2 percent in April-June on an annualised and seasonally adjusted basis, rebounding from a revised 2.1 percent contraction in the preceding quarter, data showed on Friday.

The reading was far stronger than the government’s advance estimate last month of 0.4 percent growth and well above the highest estimate in a Reuters economist poll. Analysts had expected the final reading to pick up only slightly to 0.5 percent.

“For the second half of this year, we should see services momentum improving in line with the greater confidence about global growth prospects and domestic sentiments,” said Selena Ling, head of research and strategy for OCBC Bank.

Singapore and other Asian economies which are highly dependent on trade have gained a big boost this year from an improvement in global demand, particularly for electronics products and components such as semiconductors.

But exports and their resulting boost to manufacturing had been the main bright spot for Singapore, while services, which accounts for roughly 70 percent of the economy, had lagged.

The latest GDP data suggested the economy was better balanced than first thought, with strength seen in other sectors which had been considered sluggish.

Services producing industries grew 3.3 percent from the previous quarter, after shrinking 3.0 percent in January-March.

Within the services sector, wholesale and retail trade grew 6.2 percent, while finance and insurance expanded 3.9 percent.

“The key change at the margin is that some of the domestic oriented components are doing better,” said Michael Wan, an economist at Credit Suisse.

While exports may cool in the second half, given the possibility of a slowdown in China’s economic growth, Singapore’s economy should draw more support from private consumption, Wan added.

Full-year growth should come in at around 2.5 percent, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said in a statement. It revised its official 2017 forecast to a range of 2.0 to 3.0 percent from 1.0 to 3.0 percent previously.

Still, given lingering external risks such as a possible flare-up in trade protectionism, Singapore’s central bank is seen as being in no hurry to tighten its exchange-rate based monetary policy.

This is all the more so since the domestic labour market remains sluggish.

Moreover, there is little sign of a pick-up in demand-led inflationary pressures despite stronger economic growth, a situation that is vexing central bankers around the world.

Most economists expect the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to keep its policy settings unchanged at its next policy decision due in October.

“I don’t think there is any impetus or any rush to move,” said OCBC Bank’s Ling, referring to the MAS’ policy outlook.

The central bank kept policy unchanged at its last review in April, saying a “neutral” stance is appropriate for an extended period.

Speaking after the release of the latest GDP data, MAS Deputy Managing Director Jacqueline Loh said the central bank’s current policy settings remained appropriate.

Additional reporting by Sam Holmes and Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Kim Coghill

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