Singapore non-oil exports grow 6.8% in December as gold regains its lustre

SINGAPORE'S key exports capped the year with a surprise increase in December that broke a two-month losing streak, on the back of non-electronics growth.

Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) added 6.8 per cent year on year, improving from the decline of 5 per cent seen in the month before, according to figures from trade agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on Monday.

The expansion handily beats the median decrease of 1.1 per cent forecast by private-sector analysts in a Bloomberg poll.

Headline growth was attributed by ESG to shipments of non-electronics such as specialised machinery, non-monetary gold, and measuring instruments.

Non-electronic NODX rose by 5 per cent in December - a U-turn from the 5.3 per cent contraction in the month before - as "robust semiconductor demand" fuelled specialised machinery exports to South Korea, ESG said.

Demand for non-monetary gold shipments also surged on an increase in prices. ESG attributed the rise to higher inflation expectations in the United States, as well as Covid-19 lockdowns in Britain, which have supported the safe-haven asset.

Otherwise, shipments of electronic products rose by 13.7 per cent against a low base in the year before, reversing the 4 per cent decrease in November.

Most of the growth came from a pick-up in integrated circuits, while computer parts and diodes and transistors also contributed.

On a seasonally adjusted, monthly basis, NODX rose by 6.6 per cent to S$14.5 billion in December, after earlier picking up by 3.7 per cent in November.

Overall NODX to Singapore's top 10 markets grew in December, despite contractions in exports to China, the European Union, Indonesia and Japan.

Singapore's shipments to key trade partners were driven by products such as non-monetary gold, pharmaceuticals, and measuring instruments to the US, specialised machinery, measuring instruments, and heating and cooling equipment to South Korea, as well as integrated circuits, specialty chemicals, and ship structures to Taiwan.

NODX to emerging markets also grew, after a decline in November, on shipments to South Asia, the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam bloc, and Latin America.

Meanwhile, total trade dipped by 0.3 per cent on a continued contraction in the oil trade, where prices remain low. The decline, which followed a 7.3 per cent fall in November, came as exports' return to growth was outweighed by the drop in total imports.