Singapore Nov exports unexpectedly jump on soaring sales to EU, China

Singapore Nov exports unexpectedly jump on soaring sales to EU, China

SINGAPORE - Singapore's exports in November unexpectedly jumped, thanks to a sharp rise in shipments of pharmaceuticals as well as overall increases in sales to the European Union and China, but analysts say it's too early to call a turn for the stressed trade sector.

Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) rose 11.5 per cent last month from a year earlier, the trade agency International Enterprise Singapore said in a statement on Friday, much better than the 3.0 drop predicted by economists in a Reuters survey.

A sharp increase in pharmaceuticals exports and a low-base comparison from a year earlier contributed to the jump in November exports, said Trinh Nguyen, senior economist at French investment bank Natixis SA in Hong Kong.

"The big question is whether this signals a turnaround for Singapore's exports and we think that it is too early to rejoice," Nguyen said. "The MAS will keep the Singapore dollar competitive on a trade-weighted basis, which will help external sectors. Higher oil, too, will help. In other words, we think external sectors are bottoming but the rebound is unlikely a V-shaped recovery."

The strong exports number got a boost from shipments of pharmaceuticals, which can swing sharply from month to month. Pharmaceuticals exports jumped 44.8 per cent in November from a year earlier, after sliding 47.0 per cent in October.

The latest jump in exports followed a 12 per cent year-on-year contraction in October, an outcome that some analysts saw as increasing the risk of a recession amid heightened uncertainty around global trade after Donald Trump's US election victory.

Exports to the European Union in November rose 48.3 per cent from a year earlier, after falling 28.6 per cent in October.

Shipments to China increased 15.8 per cent, after falling 0.1 per cent in October, while exports to the United States rose 3.0 per cent in November from a year earlier.

With Trump's campaign promise to tear up international trade deals threatening to shatter a fragile global recovery, Singapore's open economy remains among some of the most vulnerable markets to US protectionism.

Trump last month outlined plans for his first day in office, including formally declaring his intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade deal.

Singapore's economy has been on the ropes in the last two years as exports fell away amid slow world growth.

Singapore's central bank kept its exchange-rate based monetary policy unchanged at its October meeting, though some analysts say a deteriorating growth outlook could force it to ease at its next review in April 2017.

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