Singapore slashes 2019 growth forecast

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Visitors take photographs at the Merlion park in Singapore. AFP

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore slashed its full-year economic growth forecast yesterday as global conditions were seen worsening and data confirmed the slowest growth rate in a decade amid mounting fears of recession in the city-state.

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The government cut its forecast range for gross domestic product in Singapore – often seen as a bellwether for global growth because international trade dwarfs its domestic economy – to zero to 1 percent from its previous 1.5 percent-2.5 percent projection.

Singapore’s downgrade adds to concerns globally about the effect of increasing protectionism on exports and production. The deterioration in the global outlook has pushed central banks to cut interest rates and consider unconventional stimulus to shield their economies.

“GDP growth in many of Singapore’s key final demand markets in the second half of 2019 is expected to slow from, or remain similar to, that recorded in the first half,” the trade ministry said in a statement yesterday.

The ministry flagged a host of growing economic risks including Hong Kong’s political situation, the Japan-Korea trade dispute, the Sino-US tariff war, slowing growth in China and Brexit.

Final second quarter GDP data yesterday showed a 3.3 percent on-quarter contraction on a seasonally-adjusted annualised basis. That was slightly smaller than the 3.4 percent decline seen in the government’s advance estimate but deeper than a 2.9 percent fall predicted in a Reuters poll and a sharp contrast to the robust 3.8 percent first quarter expansion, which was driven by brisk construction activity.

Yesterday’s data also confirmed annual GDP expanded 0.1 percent in April-June from a year earlier, its slowest rate in a decade, and lower than poll expectations of 0.2 percent and the first quarter’s 1.1 percent.

Singapore’s benchmark stock index fell 1.2 percent to a two-month low in early trade, underperforming other bourses in the region.

A central bank official said after the data that it was not considering an off-cycle policy meeting. The next of its scheduled semi-annual meetings is in October, when it is widely expected to ease policy.

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