Services sector shines in trade numbers

Numbers from the services sector have been included in the quarterly review of the country's trade performance for the first time - and they looked impressive.

The move by trade agency IE Singapore yesterday delivers a more complete picture of overall trade performance as the economy becomes increasingly dependent on services exports.

The agency's reports had previously accounted only for goods traded, although the Department of Statistics (DoS) did record quarterly data on services trade.

Economists mainly watch the non-oil domestic exports (NODX) numbers to gauge Singapore's export activity as these figures reflect the shipment of goods made locally or processed here.

But as the economy moves towards a more services-oriented model, many have flagged the need to look beyond NODX as the key gauge of export performance.

That broader picture was unveiled in IE Singapore's latest quarterly report.

It showed that services exports made up 25.5 per cent of total exports last year, up from 16.9 per cent in 2004, as growth in services exports outpaced that for goods exports over the decade.

Services exports rose 3.6 per cent last year over 2013 thanks to strong growth in financial services and sectors such as accounting and legal.

The data also showed that services exports grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 6.7 per cent between 2010 and last year, while goods exports expanded at a far slower 2.0 per cent.

IE Singapore noted yesterday that slower exports of integrated circuit parts, disk drives and PC parts dragged NODX down 0.7 per cent last year after falling 6 per cent in 2013.

And while January's NODX climbed 4.3 per cent from the same period a year earlier and beat consensus estimates of 2 per cent growth, most economists warn that the uptick may be seasonal, as exports are front-loaded ahead of Chinese New Year.

Services data is not included in the monthly trade report as it is harder to track than goods data, which is reflected in traders' customs declarations.

Services data will be included only in IE Singapore's quarterly and annual reports.


This article was first published on Feb 18, 2015.
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