SINGAPORE (Apr 17): Singapore's main non-oil domestic exports (NODX) fell unexpectedly in March as shipments of both electronics and non-electronics goods slowed.

Exports of Made-in-Singapore goods fell 2.7% in March compared with a year earlier, after a revised 6.0% fall in February, trade promotion agency Enterprise Singapore said on Tuesday.

The median estimate from a poll of nine economists was for March exports to expand 0.3% from a year earlier.

Compared with the previous month, exports fell 1.8% in seasonally adjusted terms, after contracting 2.7% in February. The poll had a median projection for a 4.7% expansion in March.

Singapore's shipments to China, its biggest export destination, fell 12.2% in March from a year earlier, compared with a 24% fall in the previous month, IE Singapore said.

Exports to the European Union gained 11.3% from a year ago, reversing a 15.8% fall in February. Exports to the US stayed strong with a 32.6% expansion in March after a 54.7% gain in February.

Electronics exports declined 7.1% from a year ago, after falling 12.7% in February, while non-electronics shipments fell 1.3%, compared with a 3.3% fall in the previous month.

In the non-electronics sector, pharmaceutical exports fell 1.8%, after falling 8.0% in the previous month.

In a Tuesday report, Maybank KimEng analyst Chua Hak Bin says Singapore’s softer March export data does not represent a broader regional export downturn.

Firstly, the stronger SGD, which has appreciated by around 10% against the USD since early 2017, partly explains the weaker exports.

NODX actually rose by 3.9% in USD terms in March versus 0.7% in Feb. In real terms, NODX contracted by just 0.4% in March, less than the nominal reading of –2.7%.

Secondly, other Asian countries are reporting relatively robust exports for March, including Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea and Indonesia at +23.3%, +16.2%, +6.1% and +6.1% respectively.

Only China reported weak exports of –2.7%, but imports remained strong at +14.4%.

Chua expects manufacturing and exports growth to continue slowing in 2018 as the momentum in electronics fades.

Still, manufacturing growth should remain positive, but ease to the low single-digit by year-end, he adds.

Flash 1Q GDP advance estimates suggests manufacturing growth should remain positive but slowed to around +5% in March versus +13% in Jan and Feb.

Industrial Production figures for March will be released on April 26.