By Fabiana Negrin Ochoa

Singapore snapped five quarters of trade declines in the first three months of the year, helped by higher oil prices that are expected to keep supporting trade through 2024.

The city-state's total merchandise trade in the first quarter grew 4.8% compared with the same period a year earlier, reversing from a 2.1% contraction in the final quarter of 2023, Enterprise Singapore said Thursday.

Merchandise trade refers to goods imported into or exported from Singapore.

Non-oil exports fell 3.4% in the first quarter from a high base a year earlier, largely on weak shipments of non-electronics, the data showed.

Softer demand in Singapore's major trading partners was reflected in the data, which showed that NODX fell in all markets during January-March except for China and Hong Kong. Drops in shipments to the EU, U.S. and Japan led the declines.

EnterpriseSG attributed the weaker-than-expected performance to the volatile pharmaceuticals segment. The government agency said the result poses some risks to its trade outlook, and this year's NODX could be at the lower end of its 4.0% to 6.0% growth forecast.

"Nonetheless, support is still expected from the recovery in electronics demand in 2H 2024, driven by consumer devices and AI servers, alongside the normalisation of inventory levels," it said.

An expected pickup in the economies of key trading partners also bodes well.

Citing economic growth forecasts from the International Monetary Fund, EnterpriseSG noted that partners like China, the U.S., the EU and Asean-5 are projected to grow this year.

The IMF also forecasts a pickup in world trade volume growth this year from 2023, while the World Trade Organisation expects global merchandise trade to swing into growth from last year's decline.

"Taking the above into consideration, the 2024 growth forecast for both total merchandise trade and NODX is maintained at +4.0% to +6.0%," EnterpriseSG said.

Write to Fabiana Negrin Ochoa at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

05-22-24 2111ET