Economists get more bearish on Singapore’s outlook

The outlook for Singapore's economic growth was trimmed yet again, according to an official survey of forecasters released Wednesday.

The December survey of professional forecasters, sent out in late November, by the city-state's central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), found economists turned more bearish since the previous survey.

They expected Singapore's economy would grow just 1.5 percent in 2017 on average, down from the September survey's forecast for 1.8 percent and the June survey's projection of 2.1 percent.

The latest forecasts for 2017 growth ranged from 0.7 percent to 2.3 percent.

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

In a statement released December 2, the MAS said it expected Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) would rise by 1-3 percent in 2017 after rising an estimated 1.0-1.5 percent in 2016.

A woman pushes a trolley of recycle waste past a luxury car on the street in Singapore on March 4, 2014.
Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

Singapore's small, open economy has been buffeted by declines in global trade as well as its exposure to sharp drops in commodity prices. Redundancies in the first nine months of the year hit their highest since the first nine months of 2009, during the global financial crisis, government data earlier this week showed.

The forecasters expected the headline consumer price index (CPI) would rise 1.0 percent next year.

The survey found the Singapore dollar was expected to weaken further against the greenback, with the average forecast expecting the U.S. dollar to be fetching around 1.465 Singapore dollars at the end of 2017. The forecasts ranged from 1.37 to 1.55 Singapore dollars. At 12:06 p.m. HK/SIN, the greenback was fetching S$1.4255.

In the survey, the forecasters also cut their outlook for this year's growth to 1.4 percent from 1.8 percent in the September survey. That followed third-quarter growth coming in weaker than expected at 1.1 percent on-year, below the September survey's forecast of 1.7 percent.

The forecasts for 2016 growth ranged from 1.1 percent to 1.6 percent.

The economists now expected the finance and insurance sector would grow just 0.5 percent in 2016, down from 2.0 percent in the previous survey. They also cut the wholesale and retail trade growth forecast to 0.1 percent for 2016, down from the September survey's 2.1 percent growth forecast.

The private consumption growth forecast was cut to 1.4 percent for this year, down from 3.0 percent in the September survey.

The headline consumer price index was expected to fall 0.5 percent for the full year, with the forecast unchanged from September.

For the fourth quarter of 2016, economists expected just 0.6 percent on-year growth on average, with a median forecast of 0.8 percent. The forecasts ranged from a 0.6 percent contraction to 1.4 percent growth.

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

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