Singapore economy shrinks 14.6 pct

SINGAPORE: Singapore's economy shrank less in the first quarter than first estimated, suggesting the island's hard-hit manufacturing and finance sectors improved in March.

Gross domestic product fell an annualized, seasonally adjusted 14.6 percent in the first quarter from the previous quarter and slid 10.1 percent from a year earlier, the Trade and Industry Ministry said Thursday.

The ministry said last month that GDP plunged 19.7 percent from the previous quarter and 11.5 percent from a year earlier based on preliminary data largely from January and February.

"The data should convince skeptics that the most pessimistic scenario has been kept at bay, and a more nuanced view is warranted," said Kit Wei Zheng, an analyst with Citigroup in Singapore.

The government reiterated it expects a GDP contraction this year between 6 percent and 9 percent and a drop in non-oil exports, which account for about 60 percent of GDP, of between 10 percent and 13 percent.

Manufacturing fell 26 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier and financial services dropped 8.2 percent, both better than the ministry initially reported last month.

Non-oil exports fell 26 percent in the January-March period, the ministry said.

"The sharp collapse in global trade in late 2008 and early 2009 has tapered off," the ministry said. "While trade is still expected to be weak for the rest of 2009, further declines of the magnitude seen earlier this year seem unlikely."

The city-state's economy contracted an annualized, seasonally adjusted 16.4 percent in the fourth quarter, the biggest drop since independence from Malaysia in 1965.