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Singapore output rises for 2nd month

SINGAPORE'S manufacturing rose for a second month in May as pharmaceutical production more than doubled amid signs a severe recession is loosening its grip on the Southeast Asian city-state.

Industrial production rose 2 percent from a year earlier and fell a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent from April, the Trade and Industry Ministry said yesterday. Manufacturing rose a revised 0.4 percent in April after falling the previous six months.

Production of pharmaceuticals, which account for 20 percent of Singapore's industrial output, soared 140 percent in May while electronics, 26 percent of manufacturing, slid 22 percent and chemicals fell 17 percent.

Singapore is the latest Asian economy to show signs of stabilization in the second quarter after severe drops in the previous two quarters. Manufacturing in South Korea and China has improved in recent months.

But while the slump may be bottoming out, an economist warned that the outlook is still far from rosy.

"A valid reason for caution in Singapore is the fact that so much of the strength reflects the performance of the highly volatile pharmaceutical sector," said Robert Prior-Wandesforde, senior Asia economist at HSBC, in Singapore.

"One could argue that all we are seeing is a normalization after a terrible couple of years."

Singapore's economy, which relies on exports, finance and tourism, plunged a seasonally adjusted annualized 14.6 percent in the first quarter after a 16.4 percent drop in the fourth quarter.

The government expects the economy to shrink up to 9 percent this year.


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