Singapore's exports rose in November from a year earlier for the first time in 19 months as global demand for the city-state's pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals surged.
Exports excluding oil rose 8.7 percent last month from a year ago to 13.1 billion Singapore dollars ($9.4 billion), according to Trade and Industry Ministry figures released Thursday. Sales abroad soared a seasonally adjusted 20 percent from October, the ministry said.
"I'm surprised at how strong the numbers were," said Selena Ling, an economist with OCBC bank in Singapore. "It suggests that the rebound of the economy is stronger than expected."
Singapore emerged from recession last quarter as gross domestic product grew an annualized, seasonally adjusted 14 percent. The government expects the economy to grow up to 5 percent next year after contracting as much as 2.5 percent this year.
The improving export results also bode well for the rest of Asia, where most countries have depended on sales to developed countries to fuel decades of economic growth.
"These numbers are a good sign for Asia," Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Asia Pacific economic adviser for MasterCard in Singapore. "Asia seems to be stabilizing, and it might return to the pre-recession period."
Non-oil exports were equal to about 60 percent of Singapore's gross domestic product last year.
Pharmaceuticals rose 78 percent in November from a year earlier while petrochemicals increased 44 percent, the ministry said. Electronic products — which account for 35 percent of non-oil exports — fell 6.1 percent.
"Electronics are basically on an improving trend," said David Cohen, an economist with consultancy Action Economics in Singapore. "Global demand overall has been picking up."
Oil exports, which account for 30 percent of total exports, rose 4.6 percent in November.
Non-oil exports rose 18 percent to Europe and 22 percent to China while falling 13 percent to the U.S.
Non-oil imports fell 3.3 percent in November from a year earlier, after dropping 14 percent in October, the ministry said.
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