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     FrontPage Edition: Thu 20 July 2006

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Singapore's GDP growth for 2006 likely to be 5% to 7%

Source:  www.mas.gov.sg

Opening Remarks By Mr Heng Swee Keat, Managing Director, at MAS' Annual Report 2005/2006 Press Conference, 20 July 2006

An Excerpt

The Singapore economy grew by a robust 6.4% last year.
Looking ahead, the factors that underpinned the growth of the Singapore economy in 2005 will continue to support the expansion this year.
Thus far, the economy has expanded by an estimated 9% (year-on-year) in the first half of this year, based on the advance estimates released last week.
Although global IT demand growth may be capped somewhat by potentially slower growth in the US in H2 2006, the prospects for continued economic growth in the quarters ahead appear intact.
Barring any unexpected shocks in the external environment including an escalation in geopolitical risks in the second half of this year, GDP growth for the year as a whole is likely to be in the range of 5 to 7%.
Although the pass-through of high oil prices on both energy-related consumer items and business operating costs are expected to strengthen, our overall domestic inflationary pressures should be fairly well contained.
Taking into account the growth and inflation prospects, MAS' assessment is that our current policy stance of a modest and gradual appreciation of the S$NEER, with no re-centering of the band, nor any change to its slope or width, remains appropriate. We will continue to monitor and assess external and domestic economic conditions.
Financial Markets
In June, we published our semi-annual assessment of the stability of the financial system.
Not surprisingly, given the good macroeconomic performance of the economy, our assessment was that the financial system remains sound and robust and is in a strong position to weather the risks in the external environment.
In particular, the banking, corporate and household sectors are doing well and their balance sheets have strengthened over the past year.
Rising wealth in Asia and the focus on Asian growth prospects have resulted in more allocation of assets to the region by investors. This, coupled with high regulatory standards that are responsive to investors' demand, have created a high level of trust and confidence in Singapore's financial sector.
Our financial services sector continues to perform well, growing at 6.5% in 2005. It is expected to record further expansion this year.
Offshore-related activities have generally performed well over the first half of 2006, and are expected to be a key growth catalyst in the months ahead.
Although domestic equity prices were also hit by the worldwide sell-off in May and June, this followed a period of strong run-up in asset prices and did not reflect a shift in underlying fundamentals.
The outlook for the domestic fund management industry is positive and banking lending activities are expected to remain firm this year.
As announced last week, at end-2005, total assets managed by Singapore-based financial institutions was reported to be S$720.4 billion, a 26% growth over S$572.6 billion reported at end-2004.
The corporate debt market saw continued positive developments.
While SGD corporate debt issuance slowed slightly as a result of the interest rate environment, the market saw increased diversity in issuer profile in the past year, with first-time issuance from a number of Middle Eastern and Latin American entities. Reflecting the sophistication of investors, structured debt continued to account for a significant proportion of SGD debt issuance.
Issuance of commercial mortgage-backed securities remained strong on the back of a healthy REITS market.
Local asset managers have also become more active in Collateralised Debt Obligation (CDO) origination. Last year, the market saw the issuance of a US$1 billion asset-backed securities CDO.
This year, we expect a continued strong pipeline of SGD debt issuance as SGD-swap spreads have widened.
In the first quarter of this year, SGD issuance reached $7.4 billion, almost twice the level a year earlier.
With the growth in wealth management and an increase in more sophisticated investors, we see growing interests in alternative asset classes.
There has been a significant growth in the demand for alternative investments such as hedge funds, real estate and infrastructure investments and commodity derivatives...
To conclude, we remain focused on promoting sustained non-inflationary economic growth, and a sound and progressive financial sector.

Full Text of Speech

Source:  www.mas.gov.sg News 20 Jul 2006

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