Singapore factory output declines unexpectedly

  • Business
  • Thursday, 27 Mar 2003

Singapore’s factory production fell unexpectedly in February for the first time in four months, dropping 12% from January as pharmaceutical output slid, official data showed yesterday. 

Production was also below year-earlier levels, falling 1.4% and confounding market forecasts for an 11.1% rise, giving a shaky start to 2003 for the city-state’s manufacturers as they confront tough, low-cost regional rivals. 

February’s drop reflected a 33.3% fall in pharmaceutical output after a 108.4% leap in January, and the government said this dragged biomedical sciences production down 30.8% from a year earlier. 

The figures underlined volatility in Singapore’s growing biomedical industry, where production values often swing dramatically month to month depending on the chemicals used. 

But economists said the drop in production also cast doubt over the government’s estimate of 2.7% economic growth for the first three months of 2003 from a year earlier. 

”It will raise questions whether we can hit the 2.7% that (Deputy Prime Minister) Lee Hsien Loong has highlighted,” said Jimmy Koh, head of treasury research at UOB Bank. “We know the bioscience sector has been volatile and will continue to be volatile, and the second half of the year is contingent on the war in Iraq.” 

The data also showed that electronics production rose 2.6% in February from a year earlier, and that of semiconductors – Singapore’s top export item – grew 26.9% on the year. – Reuters  

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