Friday, October 12, 2012

Singapore economy shrinks but avoids recession

SINGAPORE - Singapore's economy shrank by 1.5 percent in the third quarter but avoided a technical recession after growth in the previous three months was adjusted up, government figures showed Friday.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said the export-driven city-state was still on track to achieve annual growth of 1.5-2.5 percent in 2012.

"Economic growth in the second quarter was better than expected, resulting in an upward revision of quarter-on-quarter annualised growth from the preliminary estimates of minus 0.7 per cent to (plus) 0.2 per cent," it said.

The revision was thanks to new data showing stronger growth in both industrial and residential buildings, it added.

Construction expanded 14.3 percent in the June quarter instead of 0.9 percent as earlier estimated.

Two successive quarters of negative growth are regarded as a technical recession. Singapore is seen as a bellwether for Asia's leading economies because of its sensitivity to world trade.

"Technically, we averted a recession," Song Seng Wun, a regional economist with CIMB Research, told AFP.

The weak performance in the third quarter was largely due to a contraction in the manufacturing sector, a key pillar of the Singapore economy, as global demand for electronics goods declined.

"For the rest of the year, growth could be weighed down by the subdued global economic conditions," said MTI.

"Externally oriented sectors such as manufacturing and wholesale trade will be affected by the slowdown in advanced economies."

Construction and transport engineering however are expected to be healthy, it added.

In a separate statement, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) maintained its policy of keeping a stronger local currency in a bid to contain inflation amid price pressures from a tight labour market.

The MAS said there was no change to the slope and width of its policy band for the Singapore dollar as well as the level at which it is centred.

It said that while Singapore's export-oriented sectors bore the brunt of the downturn, construction and financial services were resilient.

"While there remains considerable uncertainty over the evolving fiscal situation in the US and eurozone, recent central bank policy initiatives worldwide have reduced the risk of a severe global recession," MAS said.

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