Singapore April exports better than expected

Singapore harbor.
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Singapore harbor.

Singapore's annual exports unexpectedly rose in April from a year earlier on strong demand from Europe, but weakness in shipments to the U.S. and China underscored the uncertainties facing Asia's trade-reliant economies.

Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) rose 2.2 percent in April from a year earlier, trade agency International Enterprise Singapore said on Monday in a statement. That compared with a 4.2 percent contraction forecast in a Reuters poll and a 18.5 percent jump in March, which was the highest growth since February 2012.

On a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, non-oil domestic exports declined 8.7 percent in April, beating a forecast for a 13.3 percent slide.

Shipments to Europe expanded 11.4 percent from a year earlier after March's 56.2 percent surge.

But non-oil domestic exports to China eased 5.1 percent in April on-year after a 1.1 percent expansion in March, while sales to the U.S. fell 8.3 percent, compared to a 19.0 percent growth in March.

China's economy lost further momentum in April, adding to concerns that Beijing's growth target of around 7 percent for the year is at risk even if the government rolls out additional stimulus measures.

Recent disappointing U.S. data also suggested the world's top economy may be struggling to regain momentum after an abrupt slowdown in the first quarter.

"What's quite clear is that the U.S. had a soft patch in the first quarter, and so far the recent economic numbers point to a similarly weak second quarter as well," said Selena Ling, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking.

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"And then China, it's also quite clear the slowdown story is ongoing. So I am not surprised that some of the softness is coming through in terms of the export data."

Electronics down, pharmaceuticals up

Activity in the city-state's manufacturing sector slowed to its lowest in more than two years in April, contracting for a fifth straight month, with the electronics sector hit and new orders declining, a survey showed earlier this month.

Non-oil domestic exports of electronics fell 3.8 percent in April from a year earlier. That compared with 10.4 percent growth in March.

Manufacturing is a key driver of the city-state's exports, but it has been underperforming regional competitors such as South Korea and Taiwan due to fierce competition and a lack of popular high-tech products such as smartphones.

In April, pharmaceutical exports offset a slowdown in electronics. Overseas shipments of pharmaceuticals gained 7.5 percent in April from a year earlier after a 65.9 percent jump in the previous month.