Services sector revenue up 4.6% in Q4 last year, ahead of coronavirus hit

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – Singapore’s services businesses closed off 2019 with another jump in their takings, helped by a recovery in recreation and personal services spending.

Business receipts grew by 4.6 per cent year on year in the fourth quarter, up from 2.3 per cent in the three months prior, according to Department of Statistics (SingStat) data out on Thursday (Feb 27).

The increase took place across the board, led by transport services, where takings were up by 5.6 per cent, and recreation and personal services like arts and entertainment, which clocked 5.4 per cent turnover growth against the 2.0 per cent contraction in the previous quarter.

Airlines and shipping companies were among the transport businesses that saw an increase in revenue, alongside firms that deal in recreational services, SingStat said in its report.

Education services notched revenue growth of 5.2 per cent, after an earlier 0.5 per cent decline, while business services such as real estate and consulting firms expanded by 4.6 per cent, faster than the 2.1 per cent growth in the quarter before.

Information and communications takings rose by 4.2 per cent on year, from 2.3 in the third quarter, which SingStat attributed to higher demand for computer programming and consultancy services, as well as information service activities such as Web hosting and Web portal services.

Revenue from financial and insurance services also grew by 4.2 per cent, which was faster than the previous three months’ 1.6 per cent increase, while health and social services receipts were up by 3.7 per cent, a tad above the 3.4 per cent growth in the quarter prior.

On a quarterly, non-seasonally-adjusted basis, overall business receipts climbed by 4.5 per cent, picking up from the third quarter’s 0.8 per cent increase.

But the services industries are expected to take a hit this year from the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, with the Ministry of Trade and Industry warning in a Feb 17 statement that “domestic consumption in Singapore is likely to decline as locals cut back on shopping and dining out”.

Hospitality, retail and recreation firms will likely be the worst off in the services sector, Maybank Kim Eng senior economist Chua Hak Bin told The Business Times on Wednesday. He also expects electronics and transport engineering to suffer the most in the manufacturing sector.

The Business Receipts Index for the services industries – which excludes wholesale and retail trade, as well as accommodation and food services – measures the short-term changes in the amount of business or operating receipts on a quarterly basis. The index is compiled at current prices.

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