Singapore's exports in August stalled and though sales to the United States picked up, underlying weakness in overseas demand is expected to maintain pressure for further stimulus to shore up the stuttering trade-dependent economy.
Non-oil domestic exports registered flat growth last month from a year earlier, the trade agency International Enterprise Singapore said in a statement on Friday.
While that was better than the median forecast of a 4.1 per cent slump in a Reuters poll and a 10.6 per cent loss in July, the overall picture was one of slack offshore demand.
On a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis, exports declined 1.9 per cent in August, beating a forecast of a 2.9 per cent fall in the survey.
"It's flat year on year for August but whether we actually get the pick up going into the fourth quarter, which is traditionally the peak season, not quite sure whether that's going to materialise in a very strong way yet," said Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy for OCBC Bank.
The city-state's economy has been hit by weak global demand, while domestic challenges such as a labour shortage have dragged on growth.
In August, Singapore cut its 2016 economic growth forecast to 1-2 per cent from the previous forecast of 1-3 per cent expansion, leaving the door open for additional policy stimulus.
Exports to the United States grew 4.8 per cent in August on-year, compared to a 19.1 per cent decrease in July.
The recovery came on a surge in sales of non-electric engines and motors, disk media products and telecommunication equipments.
Shipments to China, Singapore's top overseas market, fell 5.4 per cent in August from a year earlier, much less than a 16.6 per cent decline in July.
That came as the world's second-largest economy showed tentative signs of stabilisation. China's factory output and retail sales grew faster than expected last month, while imports unexpectedly rose for the first time in nearly two years.
Sales to the European Union contracted 15.6 per cent last month from a year earlier after a 3.0 per cent growth in July.
Electronics exports in August shrank 6.0 per cent from a year earlier after falling 12.9 per cent in July.
Volatile pharmaceutical shipments decreased 17.9 per cent, compared to a 12.7 per cent growth in the previous month, according to a news agency.