World News

Economists slash Singapore 2020 growth forecast to 0.6% – central bank survey

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Economists have more than halved their forecasts for Singapore’s growth this year anticipating a sharp contraction in the first quarter, a central bank survey showed on Wednesday, as the coronavirus outbreak hits the trade-reliant economy.

Singapore’s gross domestic product is expected to contract 0.8% year-on-year in the first quarter, according to the median forecast of 21 economists surveyed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), and expand just 0.6% for the full year.

They had expected 2020 growth of 1.5% growth in the last MAS survey in December.

Singapore has an official GDP forecast range of -0.5% to 1.5% and has flagged the possibility of a recession due to the outbreak.

The economy had staged a nascent recovery after recording its lowest growth rate in a decade in 2019 at 0.7% before the virus spread to the city-state in late January.

Singapore has reported 166 cases of the virus so far.

The central bank said last month the Singapore currency had room to weaken, tamping down speculation that the MAS would make an off-cycle move.

The MAS eased policy at the last of its semiannual meetings in October for the first time in three years. Its next statement will be released in mid-April, when the government will also provide the first-quarter advance GDP data.

Economists are forecasting a recovery in 2021 with GDP growth of 2.0%, according to the survey.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Sam Holmes)