Singapore's factory production rises 9.5%

SINGAPORE'S factory production rose in March by a stronger-than-expected 9.5% from February, putting the trade-dependent economy on firm footing as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) out break pummels service-related and tourism industries. 

The seasonally adjusted March growth figure was more than double market expectations and reversed February’s 12% decline, surprising economists who had expected disruptions in global trade during the Iraq war to hurt Singapore's industry. 

Production also rose 6.5% from a year earlier, beating expectations for a 3.3% rise, and underscoring a fragile but steady recovery that took hold last year after Singapore's deepest recession in four decades. 

Biomedical sciences, a growth industry for Singapore, contributed most to March production, along with output gains in electronics and chemicals, the government said. 

Much of March's factory output reflected higher production in the volatile pharmaceuticals sector, a sub-sector of biomedical science, where output values swing dramatically depending on the chemicals used. 

Biomedical sciences grew 43.7% while pharmaceuticals expanded 49.8%. 

Singapore's biggest industry, electronics, posted more subdued single-digit growth of 2.9% from a year earlier, due largely to a 17.7% rise in output of semiconductors. – Reuters  

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