Singapore economy expands 0.7% in 2019, slowest in a decade

SINGAPORE(Reuters) - Singapore's economy expanded at its slowest pace in a decade last year as the manufacturing sector struggled, preliminary data showed on Thursday, even though growth picked up slightly in the fourth quarter.

The export-oriented economy has been hit hard by the drawn-out trade war between the United States and China as well as a cyclical global downturn in the electronics sector.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 0.7% in 2019, the slowest annual pace since 2009 and down from 3.1% in 2018. Authorities are forecasting growth of between 0.5% to 2.5% this year.

The services and construction sectors offset weakness in manufacturing, helping the economy grow at a slightly faster pace in the fourth quarter.

GDP grew 0.8% in October-December from the same period a year ago, compared with a revised 0.7% in the previous quarter, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement.

Analysts had expected GDP growth of 0.8%.

The economy grew 0.1% quarter-on-quarter on an annualized and seasonally adjusted basis, compared with an upwardly revised 2.4% rise the quarter before. Analysts had expected a 0.4% expansion.

"The global economic slowdown has already affected us. This year we avoided a recession. Our economy is still growing, but less vigorously than we would like," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his annual New Year message on Dec. 31.

The trade-reliant island nation is widely expected to hold an election within months, likely after its annual budget which is due to be delivered on Feb. 18.