Economists are less optimistic about Singapore’s economic outlook

Leslie Shaffer

Singapore's economic outlook for next year has been pared, according to an official survey of forecasters.

The September survey of professional forecasters, sent out mid-August, by the city-state's central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), found that economic growth next year was expected to come in at 1.8 percent next year, down from a forecast for 2.1 percent growth in the previous survey.

The mostly likely outcome was for the Singapore economy to grow by 1.0-1.9 percent in 2017, down from the 2.0-2.9 percent range in the previous survey, the survey said.

The survey, which had 22 respondents, doesn't reflect the MAS' own forecasts.

For this year, economists still expect 1.8 percent growth, unchanged from the June survey.

"The most likely outcome is for the Singapore economy to grow by between 1.0 to 1.9 percent this year. This is unchanged from the last survey," the statement said. The economists' forecasts ranged from 1.1 percent to 2.2 percent.

But economists now expect the manufacturing sector will grow 0.7 percent, up from the previous forecast for zero growth. That was offset by expectations the finance and insurance segment would grow 2.0 percent, down from 2.9 percent in the previous survey.

Economists also raised their expectations for private consumption, forecasting it will grow 3.0 percent this year, up from a forecast of 2.5 percent growth in the previous survey.

Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at Singapore-based OCBC Bank said in a note on Wednesday that concerns over Brexit and recent softness in China's economic readings may have weighed on economists' forecasts.

She noted that Singapore's manufacturing sector has remained "tepid" recently and she expected only a stabilization of the segment, not a strong recovery into the second half of this year. She said the momentum in financial services had also slowed "substantially' in the second quarter, spurring the more cautious outlook on the sector.

"These headwinds and economic drag could spill over into next year, hence the growing caution over the 2017 outlook," she said.

For the third quarter of this year, economists were forecasting gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 1.7 percent on-year, after second-quarter growth came in at 2.1 percent, slightly above the 2.0 percent growth forecast from the June survey.

Economists cut their inflation forecasts for 2016, now expecting price contraction of 0.5 percent, compared with contraction of 0.4 percent in the previous survey. Core inflation was expected to come in at 1.0 percent, up from 0.8 percent in the previous survey.

The Singapore dollar was also expected to see more strength, with the median forecast now for the U.S. dollar to fetch 1.38 Singapore dollars by the end of the year, compared with the June survey's forecast of 1.40 Singapore dollars.

For the end of the third quarter, forecasts for the U.S. dollar/Singapore dollar pair ranged from 1.331-1.40, with a median forecast of 1.37.

At 11:47 a.m. HK/SIN, the greenback was fetching 1.3469 Singapore dollars.

In its official forecasts, the MAS projects that Singapore's GDP will grow 1-2 percent in 2016, with inflation forecast in a range of negative 1.0 percent to zero and core inflation forecast to come at around 1 percent.

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—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1