Welcome to 2011.
Like last year, 2011 is expected to be a strong one in Asia. I have brought you growth stories across Asia during the past six months.
Today, I want to revisit two of my favorite locations in Asia and show you how the year 2010 has ended strongly there.
Let’s begin our visit by going to my favorite island nation, Singapore. Not only is this nation a financial and trade center for Asia, it is also developing its economy internally to avoid its overdependence on export business.
Singapore’s advanced estimate for fourth-quarter 2010 real GDP increased by 12.5 percent on the heels of growth of 10.5 percent in third-quarter 2010. For 2010 as a whole, this implies GDP growth of 14.7 percent. The significant increase has been driven by the biomedical-manufacturing cluster, which saw a surge in pharmaceutical production.
Meanwhile, growth in the services sectors continued to expand, increasing 4.7 percent.
Not to be left behind, we saw strong growth in the financial-services sector and tourism-related sectors as well. So there has been robust all-around growth that has been observed across the various segments of Singapore’s economy.
The Singapore dollar also soared to new heights and continues to gallop ahead. With a prudent monetary authority at the helm, Singapore has embraced a strong dollar, which is assisting significantly in keeping inflation in check while strengthening the overall impact of Singapore across Asia.
While I expect a plateau of growth around 5.5 percent GDP growth for 2011 and 2012, I do see the domestic sector likely to take center stage amid strong credit growth and a resurgent labor market, while the export-oriented manufacturing sector falls back to a more sustainable growth rate. I believe a strong engine for growth could be the ASEAN demand growth into Singapore, mainly through foreign direct investment, and services exports.
Moving north, my focus is also on South Korea. While there is a slight overhang of the threat of war with North Korea, I do believe this will spur economic activities in South Korea as we are seeing through some of the numbers.
Exports accelerated in December, beating global expectations. Exports rose 23.1 percent, further rising after a sterling 24.6 percent in November. This is the strongest growth spurt seen there since December 2007. Exports (excluding ships which tend to skew numbers dramatically) increased similarly at 23.5 percent. Imports rose 23.3 percent and the trade surplus was US$3.7 billion for the month. The overall surplus for 2010 was nearly US$45 billion.
Diving into the details of exports, I am surprised to see exports to the United States and Japan have increased for a second month. But what wasn't a real surprise was that exports to the non–China BRIC countries were up a whopping 91 percent for the year. Not that we needed any more proof, but here is another data point which indicates the BRIC economies are glowering hot and continuing to gallop at a rapid pace.
Auto and tech exports remained strong. Among tech, exports of memory chips rose along with handset exports. Oil and steel exports rose 34.3 percent, while ship exports rose 20.3 percent.
I expect overall exports to remain robust in the coming months with double-digit growth, on a competitive Korean won, assuming sustained recoveries in developed markets and strong emerging-markets demand.
I do anticipate a couple of interest rate hikes due to the strong growth being observed there, which will lead to a stronger won and which could potentially temper the red-hot exports growth. And this would be a welcome step in cooling down the economy slightly.
A wise investor would be investing into specific export growth companies in South Korea to capitalize on the growth of the export demand in Korea.
Next week, I want to bring you the outlook on 2011 and what we can expect from the various parts of the world as it relates to investing.
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