Electronics surge powers October factory output

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FACTORIES started the fourth quarter on an upbeat note, thanks to a blistering performance from the electronics sector.

Overall manufacturing production was up 8 per cent in October over the same month last year.

This was due mainly to an output surge from the electronics cluster, which expanded 22.8 per cent on the back of improved global demand.

It was the sector's seventh consecutive month of expansion and its strongest in nearly three years.

Electronics output rose 1.3 per cent from January to October this year compared with the same period last year, according to Economic Development Board data yesterday.

Though October's manufacturing growth came in below market expectations of 9.3 per cent, Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Chua Hak Bin said the expansion in industrial production was still "robust".

Last month's reading followed September's 9.2 per cent increase in factory output, and "further confirms a sustained manufacturing recovery", added Dr Chua.

The electronics cluster's growth in October was boosted by the computer peripherals, other electronics modules and components, and semiconductors segments, which increased output by 20.3 to 85.8 per cent.

Other industries also put in strong performances last month.

The transport engineering cluster increased output by 8.9 per cent over last year while precision engineering grew by 5 per cent.

However, biomedical manufacturing contracted by 2.3 per cent last month as the pharmaceuticals segment fell 6.9 per cent due to the production of a different mix of ingredients.

The chemicals sector's output fell 0.9 per cent, while production among general manufacturers was down 1.6 per cent.

If the biomedical segment is excluded, overall factory production expanded 10.4 per cent from last year.

October's manufacturing output was flat from September but would have grown by 0.2 per cent excluding biomedical numbers.

A more optimistic outlook for Singapore's manufacturing is in line with stronger performances around the region, said UOB economist Francis Tan.

"Factory outputs from several Asian countries showed similar improvements in recent months. This is in line with our view of the continued recovery in the G3 economies and in Asian consumption demand," added Mr Tan.

Output from manufacturers is tipped to pick up from 1.4 per cent for 2013, to 3.7 per cent next year, estimated OCBC economist Selena Ling.

Mr Sam Chee Wah, general manager of precision engineering firm Feinmetall Singapore, said sales are expected to be about 20 to 30 per cent slower this quarter compared with the same period last year.

The company, which serves the semiconductor industry, exports about 70 per cent of its products to places such as Taiwan, China and Thailand.

"No new smartphone models are expected to be launched in the fourth quarter... We expect things to pick up in the second or third quarter next year with the launch of new consumer electronics products," added Mr Sam.

chiaym@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times, 27 Nov 2013