Singapore Q2 GDP contraction bad omen for Asia
UPDATED @ 12:58:25 PM 13-07-2012
SINGAPORE, July 13 — Singapore’s trade-dependent economy shrank 1.1 per cent in the second quarter on an annualised and seasonally adjusted basis, reversing a strong January-March performance in another sign that weakness in Western countries has begun to affect Asia.
The wealthy Southeast Asian city-state, a major financial and business centre whose trade is more than three times its gross domestic product, is regarded as a leading indicator for Asia because of its open economy.
The surprise contraction in Singapore’s GDP prompted at least three banks to cut their full-year forecast and signalled the central bank may ease monetary policy when it issues its next half yearly policy statement in October.
“We are downgrading our Singapore GDP growth forecast to 1.9 per cent in 2012 and three per cent in 2013,” said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Chua Hak Bin.
“The risk of a technical recession has increased... (and) MAS may ease back to a modest and gradual Singapore dollar appreciation at the October policy meeting from the current slightly steeper stance,” he added.
Merrill had previously predicted Singapore’s GDP would expand by 2.5 per cent this year and 3.3 per cent in 2013.
Citigroup cut its 2012 GDP growth outlook to 2.6 per cent from 3.6 per cent, lowering it to within the official one to three per cent forecast, while Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) reduced its forecast to 2.3 per cent from 2.7 per cent.
United Overseas Bank economist Chow Penn Nee said the disappointing advance economic data did not bode well for China and the rest of Asia as Singapore is usually the first in the region to feel the impact of a weakening global environment.
China, which also reported GDP data today, said its economy grew 7.6 per cent in the April-June quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace since the first quarter of 2009 although it was in line with market expectations.
The Chinese and Singapore GDP estimates come a day after the Asian Development Bank (ADB) cut its growth forecasts for developing Asia, citing financial and economic problems in Europe and the United States that had cut demand for exports.
Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said the city-state’s GDP shrank in the second quarter due to a six per cent quarter-on-quarter contraction in manufacturing, which was in turn the result of a drop in biomedical production.
The ministry also revised the expansion in the first three months of 2012, trimming it to 9.4 per cent on a seasonally adjusted and annualised basis from the growth of 10 per cent it previously reported.
Singapore’s services sector grew 0.4 per cent in the second quarter from the first three months of the year at an annualised and seasonally adjusted pace, as growth in tourism offset a contraction in trade and financial services.
Economists said that contraction in trade and financial services pointed to weakness across the region. In contrast, Singapore’s pharmaceutical industry tends to be highly choppy.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had given a consensus forecast of second-quarter growth of 0.3 per cent quarter-on-quarter and 2.4 per cent year-on-year.
Singapore manages monetary policy by allowing its dollar to rise or fall against a basket of currencies. In April, the Monetary Authority of Singapore raised its inflation forecast and said it will let the local dollar appreciate at a slightly faster pace.
Singapore’s inflation, while high by historical standards, slowed to 5.0 per cent year-on-year in May from 5.4 per cent in April as authorities cited moderating price pressures from wages and other business costs.
“Inflation appears to be stabilising and downside growth risks may be renewing. If a technical recession does materialise, expect market speculation of a monetary policy easing in October to gain some traction,” OCBC’s head of treasury research Selena Ling said. — Reuters