S’pore firms turn positive amid vaccine rollouts

SINGAPORE: The business expectations of firms in both the manufacturing and services sectors turned positive after a year of gloom, with sentiment boosted by the start of Covid-19 vaccinations across countries.

Their sentiments were captured in the latest quarterly surveys released separately by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Department of Statistics (SingStat) on Friday.

A weighted 36% of manufacturers expect better business conditions for the next six months, while a weighted 4% expect things to worsen, the EDB survey showed.

Thus, an overall net weighted balance of 32% of manufacturers were upbeat on their business outlook. This was the first overall positive outlook for the sector since April 2020.

A weighted percentage refers to an aggregate of the responses of manufacturers based on their proportion of the manufacturing sector.

The services sector also turned optimistic after being downbeat for more than a year.

Some 21% of firms were optimistic about business conditions, while 14% of firms were pessimistic, resulting in a net weighted balance of 7% of firms having a positive business outlook for the next six months, the Singstat survey showed.

This was the first positive net weighted balance for the services sector after four quarters of negative sentiments.

Within the services sector, several industries expect business conditions to improve in the first half of this year, compared with July to December last year.

These are the finance and insurance, recreation, community and personal services, food and beverage services, retail trade, and information and communications industries. However, sectors such as accommodation and real estate continue to be less optimistic in their business outlook due to global travel restrictions and work-from-home arrangements.

All manufacturing clusters anticipate better business prospects in the first half of this year.

The biomedical manufacturing cluster is the most optimistic, with a net weighted balance of 46% of firms expecting a favourable operating environment.

Within the cluster, the pharmaceuticals segment expects improved market conditions such as fewer supply chain disruptions.

Similarly, the medical technology segment expects more orders for both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19-related medical devices in the near term. ─ Straits Times/ANN

The Star, 01 February 2021 (Monday)