The trade agency Enterprise Singapore, which reported the data, added the caveat that last year presented a high base from which to measure.
The March trade data offered the biggest year-on-year monthly drop in NODX since the 12-per-cent fall in October 2016 and followed the biggest year-on-year slump in electronics exports since 2013.
The electronics exports sector extended 12 months of contraction, with a 16.3-per-cent tumble, following March’s 26.7-per-cent slump.
Parts of integrated circuits recorded a 51.7-per-cent fall contributed the most to the electronics fall.
Non-electronic exports declined by 7.9 per cent, mainly because of a 46.6-per-cent drop in pharmaceuticals exports.
ING Asia’s Prakash Sakpal said the figures were “yet another disappointing export result”.
“Singapore is among the frontline Asian economies to face the brunt of the recent escalation of trade tensions between the US and China,” the economist said, explaining that the impact of a deteriorating external environment has been seen in steeper manufacturing contraction driving a gross domestic product slump in the first quarter.
“A steeper manufacturing contraction driving a GDP slowdown in the first quarter of 2019 bore out the adverse impact of the deteriorating external environment. With trade tensions moving to the next level of more and higher tariff barriers things could get even worse from here on,” Sakpal added.
“Such a state of affairs will make it increasingly difficult for the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the central bank, to sustain its tightening monetary policy bias going forward. Indeed, the MAS paused tightening in the last policy review in April. We think the odds of MAS scaling back part of the tightening moves in 2018 are on the rise.”
Exports to the European Union fell the most steeply, by 25.4 per cent, after March’s 15.1 per cent tumble. Malaysia saw a drop of 13.6 per cent and exports to China, Singapore’s largest export market, shrank 5.8 per cent.
Singapore Airlines chief executive Goh Choon Phong said an order for 31 Boeing 737 Max jets remained “intact” despite the aircraft’s recent crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
Singapore Airlines’ regional affiliate SilkAir in March grounded six Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
Goh said the grounding complicated the planned merger between Singapore Airlines and SilkAir, which would have to retain its older 737 NG aircraft that were set to be moved to Scoot, a low-cost carrier owned by Singapore Airlines.
The 2018 export figures were particularly high. Picture credit: Wikimedia