February 18, 2019 / 4:45 AM / a year ago

Singapore Jan non-oil exports suffer biggest decline in more than two years

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s exports stumbled more than expected in January, getting 2019 off to a bumpy start amid signs trade frictions are having an impact on Asia’s trade-reliant economies.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of shipping containers stacked at the port of Singapore February 14, 2012. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

Weak export data released on Monday comes two days after Singapore reported the fourth quarter had slowest growth in more than two years and warned of significant moderation for manufacturing this year.

“Singapore joins other countries in the region, like Korea, which have been seeing slower export numbers as well,” Maybank Kim Eng economist, Lee Ju Ye said, adding that she expects slower exports this year, particularly in the first quarter.

Also on Monday, Japan reported that overseas orders for machinery posted their biggest decline in more than a decade in December, and manufacturers expect orders to fall further this quarter as trade friction weighs on global demand.

Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) fell 10.1 percent in January from a year earlier, data from the trade agency Enterprise Singapore showed

That was significantly worse than the 1.6 percent decline predicted by a Reuters poll, a further slowing from December’s 8.5 percent decline and the biggest drop since October 2016.

Exports to all Singapore’s top trading partners declined in January from the year earlier, including exports to the United States, which fell 4.6 percent after 15 months of double-digit growth.

Shipments to China fell 25.4 percent in January from the year earlier, after a 15.4 percent increase in December.

On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, exports contracted 5.7 percent in January after declining a revised 4.0 percent in December. The poll called for a 2.6 percent expansion from the month before.

On Friday, Enterprise Singapore reported that for the whole of 2018, Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports expanded 4.2 percent. Significantly, there was an 8.8 percent drop in non-oil domestic exports to Singapore’s biggest trade partner, China, compared with a 31.1 percent rise in 2017.

Electronics exports dropped 15.9 percent from a year earlier.

The Singapore dollar weakened slightly against the U.S. dollar on the trade news.

Later on Monday, Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will present the budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.

Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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