Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) continued its growth trend for the fourth consecutive month in March thanks to higher non-electronics shipments and a low base for electronics.

Official figures released by trade agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on Apr 17 showed that NODX had logged a 12.1% y-o-y increase in March, extending the 4.2% growth registered the month before.

March’s showing is also stronger than the median rise of 2.6% penciled by private-sector economists in a Bloomberg poll.

“There is definitely upside risk to our existing NODX forecast of 2% y-o-y, and we are now looking at a 2-4% y-o-y forecast, assuming that the global vaccine-aided recovery theme continues to take root and blossom into 2H2021,” chimes Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank. 

The increase was led by a 24.4% expansion in non-electronic shipments, which is better than the 7.3% growth posted by the segment in February.

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This is as the electronic NODX for March – which raked $2.9 billion – was the lowest monthly level compared to 2020 average of $3.2 billion.

Aside from this, of growth came from a 19% of $0.3 billion jump in the shipment of ICs, which had benefitted from strong global semiconductor demand and media reports of chip shortages, ESG notes.

Electronic NODX also benefitted from increases in the exports of PCs (66.1%) and diodes & transistors (44.4%).

Non-electronic NODX grew by 9.4%, extending March’s 3.2% rise.

The bulk of this came from a 51.4% or $0.5 billion surge in the exports of petrochemicals which had previously been on the decline amid the global downcycle. 

For comparison, the segment had logged an average declines of 15% in 2019 and 21% 2020.

The addition of 25.5% in pharmaceuticals – which are typically volatile – as well as a 35.1% expansion in specialised machinery thanks to robust semiconductor demand, further lifted non-electronic exports, says ESG.

On a m-o-m seasonally adjusted basis, NODX edged up by 1.2%, an easing from the previous month’s 8.3% growth. This translates to $16.9 billion in takings for March’s NODX, compared to $16.7 billion in February.

In this time, Singapore’s NODX to its top 10 markets grew “as a whole” in March, with exports to Malaysia (+47.0%), China (+46.4%) and the EU27 (+31.6%) being the largest contributors.

Interestingly, the increase in shipments to Malaysia is a reversal from the 7.8% decline in the preceding month and follows stronger exports of non-monetary gold (+106.7%), diodes & transistors (+92.3%) and petrochemicals (+81.6%).

Similarly, the jump in shipments to the EU27 is also a reversal from February’s 34.7% plunge. This is thanks to higher exports of telecommunications equipment (+276.9%), specialised machinery (+78.6%) and pharmaceuticals (+54.7%).

The strong NODX to China conversely is an extension from the gains in the previous month and was led by the exports of primary chemicals (+96.3%), specialised machinery (+70.3%) and petrochemicals (+46.3%).

On the other hand, declines in NODX were seen in Thailand (-50.7%), Japan (-19.8%), the US (-19.8%) and Hong Kong (-13.1%).

Meanwhile, Singapore’s non-oil re-exports (NORX) was up by 28.7%, expanding significantly from the 2.7% increase it posted from the previous month. This comes from the low base in 2020 as well as growth in both electronic and non-electronic re-exports, says ESG.

Electronic re-exports were up 38.8% due to higher shipments of parts of PCs (+61.9%), telecommunications equipment (+55.1%) and ICs (+37.1%).

Similarly, non-electronic re-exports grew by 19.1% following increments in non-monetary gold (+199.9%), personal beauty products (+41.7%) and specialised machinery (+29.5%).

On a seasonally adjusted m-o-m basis, NORX grew by 8.3%, continuing the previous month’s 4.7% increase. This equates to $28.7billion in takings, versus $26.5 billion in February.

NORX shipments to the top 10 markets grew, with the key contributors being Malaysia (+71.9%), Hong Kong (+43.5%) and China (+22.7%).

Total trade for March was up by 19.6% in March, reversing from the previous month’s 3.3% decline. In this time, total exports rose by 21.0% - from February’s 2.1% dip, while total imports expanded by 17.9% - from the previous month’s 4.6% shrinkage.

On a  seasonally adjusted m-o-m basis, total trade expanded by 7.1%, up from February’s 6.0%. With this, total trade reached $98.4 billion in March, higher than February’s $91.8 billion.

The latest trade numbers, coupled with the advance estimates showing a 0.2% growth in Singapore’s economy in 1Q2021 indicates that the republic “is well positioned to ride the upcycle in global demand, alongside a gradual normalisation of domestic demand,” observes Faiz Nagutha, an economist at BofA.

He is expecting Singapore’s full-year GDP to expand by 8.0% in 2021 and 4.7% in 2022.

See: Singapore halts economy's slide one year into pandemic; MAS stands pat on policy stance