Demand for Singapore, Asian exports to rise next year: UOB

PHOTO: Demand for Singapore, Asian exports to rise next year: UOB

Developed economies will likely see moderate growth next year, giving a boost to export-oriented Asian nations such as Singapore, according to analysts at United Overseas Bank (UOB).

Head of economic treasury research Jimmy Koh, at a briefing yesterday, said: "We are going into 2014 not in a runaway situation, not an exciting growth environment, but (it is) more of a moderate environment."

Citing improving United States housing and employment data, UOB forecasts US growth to come in at 3 per cent next year.

Sustained US economic growth is likely to increase the US' appetite for Asian products, benefiting Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and China, which have strong export markets. A firmer US dollar, which makes Asian goods and services cheaper, is also going to help lift Asian exports.

UOB expects the greenback to strengthen against most Asian currencies as the US Federal Reserve is likely to withdraw its bond-buying programme next March.

Besides the US, improved business confidence in Europe and Japan could lead to an increase in foreign corporate investments in high-growth Asia.

But one danger looming on the horizon for Asia is rising household debt. In Singapore, household debt as a percentage against its gross domestic product rose from 64.4 per cent in 2007 to 76.1 per cent last year, largely due to home purchases. Also over the same period, China's household debt percentage increased from 19.7 per cent to 23.1 per cent while in Malaysia, it jumped from 65.9 per cent to 80.5 per cent.

"Every crisis is the result of overleverage. In 2008, it was American banking overleverage; in 2012, it was European sovereign overleverage. If we are not careful, the next crisis in years to come will be Asian consumer overleverage," said Mr Koh.

On equities, UOB Asset Management's head of multi-asset strategy Anthony Raza said he expects the local stock market to see gains of 6 per cent to 7 per cent next year.


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.