Singapore factory activity expands for fifth straight month in November with surge in electronics

SINGAPORE – Singapore manufacturing maintained expansion mode in November for a fifth straight month, but pulled back from the peak reached in October.

But the electronics sector continued to forge ahead, expanding the most in more than two years.

Analysts said the mixed picture flags that the recent resurgence of Covid-19 worldwide may have started to weigh down on global demand.

The Singapore Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) – a leading indicator for assessing the state of the economy – dipped 0.1 point from October to post a slower expansion at 50.4. The index level in October was its highest since March 2019, when it was 50.8.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion; one below that number points to contraction.

Marginally higher expansion rates in new orders and new exports helped overall manufacturing PMI to hold above the expansion line, said the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM) that compiles the index.

The supplier deliveries index reverted to expansion after contracting for nine months in a row.

But the index was dragged down by weaker expansion rates of the inventory index and output index, as well as faster contraction rate of the employment index – recording its 10 consecutive decline. The finished goods index recorded slower rate of expansion whereas the indexes of both imports and input prices recorded faster rates of expansion.

Ms Sophia Poh, SIPMM vice-president of Industry Engagement and Development, said: “The latest PMI reading indicates the resilience of the overall manufacturing sector, with expansion recorded for the fifth continuous month.

“However, factory employment remains weak and manufacturers remain concerned about the impact on global demand arising from new waves of the global pandemic that could derail the manufacturing recovery,” she noted.

The electronics PMI rose 0.1 point from October to 51.1 – the fourth month of expansion and the highest since September 2018, when the reading was 51.4.

The electronics growth was attributed to faster expansion rates for new orders, new exports, factory output, and employment.

The electronics employment index has reverted to a marginal expansion after it first recorded contraction in February this year.

Except for the indexes of electronics inventory and supplier deliveries, all other indicators recorded faster expansion rates.

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Ms Selena Ling, chief economist and head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank, said: “PMIs suggest that the growth momentum going forward will not be smooth sailing, and the earlier bounce driven by restocking and stockpiling post-global lockdown may be fading.

Going ahead, the stabilisation in the manufacturing and electronics PMIs suggest that the economy is unlikely to repeat the growth expansion seen in the third quarter, she cautioned.

“However, the manufacturing sector, aided by the electronics industry, is likely to remain the stalwart for the nascent recovery story going into early 2021,” she noted.

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