Singapore factory output shrinks for third month in July, with sharper 8.4% fall

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s factory output contracted for the third straight month in July on the back of a continued drop in the volatile biomedical manufacturing cluster and electronics production turning negative, according to data released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Wednesday (Aug 26).

Manufacturing output fell 8.4 per cent last month on a year-on-year basis, steeper than the revised 6.5 per cent drop in June. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, output fell 5.2 per cent.

But on a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, manufacturing output increased 1.6 per cent. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, production rose 10 per cent.

On a year-to-date basis, only the biomedical manufacturing and precision engineering clusters registered output growth.

Biomedical manufacturing output, which can be volatile from month to month, shrank 24.8 per cent in July compared with the same period last year, for a second straight month of decline. But for the year to date, biomedical manufacturing is the best performing cluster,  growing 19.4 per cent from the same period a year ago, after a five-month-long winning streak that began in January.

For July, output of the medical technology segment dropped 10.1 per cent and the pharmaceutical segment fell 30.5 per cent, with the latter recording lower output in biological products and a different mix of active pharmaceuticals ingredients from a year ago, EDB noted.

Output in the key electronics cluster dipped 1.4 per cent, reversing year-on-year growth of 17.8 per cent in June. Other electronic modules and components grew by 2.8 per cent and semiconductors by 0.3 per cent. But the infocomm and consumer electronics, and computers and data storage segments recorded declines. 

Overall, electronics production dipped 0.6 per cent year on year in the first seven months of 2020.

The only cluster to report growth in July was precision engineering, with output expanding by 9.3 per cent. The machinery and systems segment grew 20.4 per cent on account of higher production of semiconductor equipment.

But the precision modules and components segment dropped by 14.7 per cent with lower output in optical products and dies, moulds, tools, jigs and fixtures. Overall, the precision engineering cluster grew 11.4 per cent from January to July this year, compared with the same period a year ago.

Output in the transport engineering sector fell by 39.8 per cent compared with last July. The aerospace segment remained weak as the volume of aircraft repair and maintenance work remained low amid the coronavirus pandemic. The marine and offshore engineering segment shrank 58.7 per cent as movement restrictions at foreign worker dormitories continued to impact the level of activities in the shipyards, EDB said.

Overall, the transport engineering cluster fell 20.3 per cent in the first seven months of 2020 compared with the same period last year.

General manufacturing output also fell, by 22.2 per cent last month, with all segments recording declines.

The food, beverage and tobacco segment fell 9.8 per cent on account of lower production of milk powder and beverage products.

Meanwhile, the printing segment declined 18.8 per cent and the miscellaneous industries segments fell 38.7 per cent, with the latter registering lower output of construction-related products.

Chemicals output dropped by 2.4 per cent. The petrochemicals segment grew 11.5 per cent but the rest of the chemical segments recorded declines. The other chemicals segment fell 15.2 per cent, while the specialities and petroleum segments contracted 16 per cent each, on the back of plant maintenance shutdowns and lower export orders amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In the first seven months of this year, output of the chemicals cluster fell 5 per cent compared with the same period in 2019.

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