Defying expectations of a fifth consecutive month of growth, Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) reversed into the red in October, following a slowdown in both electronic and non-electronic shipments.

Official figures released by trade agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on Nov 17 indicated a 3.1% year-on-year contraction to NODX, a substantial reversal from the 5.8% growth seen in September.

October’s showing falls short of the 5.1% expansion projected by private-sector economists in a Bloomberg poll.

The decline was led by a 3.9% slip in non-electronic shipments, which comes as a surprise given the 1.7% growth registered by the segment in September. 

SeeSingapore's NODX drops after three consecutive months of growth

This follows a 61.0% plunge in the export of non-monetary gold, a segment which saw steep growth in the first nine months of the year from investment demand from the United States, European Union and the United Kingdom, ESG observes.

A simultaneous plunge in exports of miscellaneous manufactured articles (-37.3%) and petrochemicals (-15.3%) deepened the segment’s decline.

Meanwhile, the linchpin electronics sector made an astonishing reversal into the red with a 0. 4% slip, from the 21.4% expansion registered in the month before. The poorer performance comes from lower exports of ICs, other computer peripherals and parts of PCs by 12.8%, 6.9% and 1.0%, respectively.

On a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, NODX plunged by 5.3% in October, widening the previous month’s 11.4% decline. This is the result of a decline in both electronic and non-electronic exports, ESG explains.

These developments translated to $13.1 billion in takings for October’s NODX, down from September’s $13.8 billion.

In this time, Singapore’s NODX to its top 10 markets declined “as a whole” in October, with exports to Hong Kong (-21.0%), Thailand (-12.2%) and Malaysia (-7.8%) taking the worst hit.

The decline in shipments to Hong Kong is an extension from the 26.7% contraction registered in the previous month and follows a plunge in the exports of non-monetary gold (-83.5%), electrical machinery (-36.6%) and ICs (-4.4%).

Similarly, the contraction in shipments to Thailand also comes after the 15.7% decline it posted in September. The latest performance is the result of lower exports of personal beauty products (-94.9%), ICs (-39.1%) and non-monetary gold (-36.4%).

As for Malaysia – the latest numbers are interesting as they are reversal from the 28.8% expansion seen in the previous month. ESG attributes this to poorer export levels of civil engineering equipment parts (-52.8%), ICs (-26.5%) and petrochemicals (-25.0%).

On the contrary, NODX to other key trading partners such as Japan (+16.9%), the US (+13.2%) and China (+5.3%) staged expansions and mitigated an even worse decline in overall export levels.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s non-oil re-exports (NORX) was up by 2.5%, narrowing from the 5.1% increase it posted from the previous month. This comes as the growth in electronic re-exports outweighed the decline in that for non-electronics, ESG says.

Electronic re-exports were up 20% year-on-year, due to higher shipments of diodes & transistors (+59.3%), parts of PCs (+31.5%) and ICs (+27.8%).

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This increase helped mitigate the 13.3% contraction in non-electronic re-exports which was affected by declines in aircraft parts (-51.8%), piston engines (-51.8%) and non-electric engines and motors (-34.3%).

On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, NORX inched down by 0.3%, reversing from the previous month’s 1.0% increase. This equates to $24.0 billion in takings, lower than the $24.1 billion in September.

NORX shipments to the top 10 markets grew, with the key contributors being China (+43.9%), Hong Kong (+26.7%) and South Korea (+11.4%).

To Selena Ling who heads OCBC’s treasury research and strategy department, the latest showing – particularly for NODX – is “disappointing”.

She now expects a weaker NODX reading of -0.4% year-on-year for the ongoing 4Q2020. 

As for the full-year, Ling is looking at a 4% – 5% growth rate from the previous year.