[SINGAPORE] Singapore's key non-oil domestic exports (NODX) chalked up a healthy 8.3 per cent growth in April from a year ago, after dipping 4.3 per cent in March.
The rise overshot market expectations. Economists were looking to a 5.9 per cent increase.
Shipments to all of Singapore's top 10 markets rose, except for the European Union (EU) and the United States, the latest trade numbers released yesterday by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore show.
Domestic exports to the EU - Singapore's largest market - were down 12.2 per cent after a 4.5 per cent rise in March. US imports from Singapore in April fell 18.6 per cent, against a 4 per cent increase in the previous month.
Economists at UOB Bank's Economic Treasury Research predict that the EU and the US will continue to weigh on demand for Singapore's exports.
Compared with March, April's NODX rose a seasonally adjusted 13.1 per cent, but the strong showing had followed a sharp 16.8 per cent plunge a month earlier.
"If the seasonally adjusted level of NODX is unchanged in May and June, we estimate that the series would be up 2.1 per cent in Q2 relative to Q1," says Robert Prior-Wandesforde of Credit Suisse bank. "This is not bad but far from the 8.7 per cent gain in the first quarter, supporting our view that Q1 will be the strongest quarter of sequential growth in 2012 in Singapore and other heavily trade-dependent economies in the region."
And the reason for this is that output overshot orders in the first couple of months of the year, perhaps reflecting optimism about the US and eurozone economies, according to him. But this has subsequently proven to be yet another false dawn.
IE Singapore yesterday also released consolidated trade figures for the first three months that show NODX increased a seasonally adjusted 8.7 per cent from Q4 2011 to Q1 2012, reversing a 0.7 per cent dip in the previous quarter.
From a year ago, NODX jumped 6.1 per cent in Q1 2012, in contrast to a 2.7 per cent decline in Q4 2011.
But because uncertainties remain in the eurozone, IE Singapore is not confident that NODX can keep up with the performance. It maintains that both total trade and NODX are likely to rise 3-5 per cent for the full year.
Electronic domestic shipments, which dropped 12 per cent in the previous quarter, rose 3.5 per cent in Q1 2012. Non-electronic NODX gained 7.5 per cent, extending the 3.8 per cent rise in Q4 2011.
A rise in both electronic and non-electronic shipments supported April's NODX growth. Electronics still managed to grow, but at a slower one per cent pace following a 2.8 per cent expansion in March.
Non-electronic NODX strengthened significantly to post a 12 per cent jump in April, against a 7.8 per cent fall in the previous month.
IE Singapore says Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea were the top contributors to the NODX growth last month. Most striking was the domestic shipments to Japan, which surged 124 per cent - thanks to a 904 per cent rise in pharmaceuticals exports.
Credit Suisse's Mr Prior-Wandesforde finds this odd. "While Singapore exports to Japan normally fall in non-seasonally adjusted terms in April, they actually doubled between March and April this year," he says.
Credit Suisse estimates that stripping out Japan from the numbers, year-on-year NODX growth in April was just 1.1 per cent.