US home sales slow less than expected in April

US home sales slow less than expected in April

 

WASHINGTON – Sales of existing US homes, the largest segment of the housing market, fell 1 per cent in April from March, a real-estate industry group said on Friday, citing tighter lending practises.

 

Existing-home sales slowed to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units from an upwardly revised pace of 4.94 million in March, the National Association of Realtors said in a monthly update.

 

The pace was stronger than expected, with most analysts banking on a rate of 4.85 million units.

 

On a year-on-year basis, sales were 17.5 per cent below the 5.93 million units sold in April 2007. — AFP

 

Source: Business Times

S’pore Q1 GDP fastest since ’05, ups CPI forecast

S’pore Q1 GDP fastest since ’05, ups CPI forecast

 

SINGAPORE‘S economy grew in the first quarter at its fastest pace since 2005, but slightly below market expectations, and the government raised its 2008 inflation forecast and warned of increased United States recessionary risks.

Singapore‘s trade-dependent economy expanded at an annualised rate of 14.6 per cent in the first quarter after seasonal adjustments, as a recovery in drugs production boosted growth, the government said on Friday.

 

The government raised its 2008 inflation forecast to 5 to 6 per cent from 4.5-5.5 per cent on Friday, citing high oil and food prices in the near term.

 

Analysts said rising consumer prices would force the Singapore central bank the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to let the Singapore dollar , its main policy tool, rise further to tame inflation.

 

‘The pressure will be on to keep the currency strong. The bigger news here is the inflation number. The MAS has been forced finally to raise their inflation forecast range,’ said Mr Robert Prior-Wandesforde, a HSBC economist.

 

Singapore‘s April inflation accelerated at a faster-than-expected pace of 7.5 per cent from a year ago, matching a high reached 26 years ago due to higher housing, food and oil prices.

 

First-quarter economic growth was below an advance official estimate of a 16.9 per cent expansion. A Reuters poll estimated the economy would grow an annualised 15.9 per cent in the January-March period.

 

Singapore‘s export-driven economy is seen by analysts as a barometer of demand for Asian goods. Exports were worth twice its $229 billion economy last year.

 

From a year earlier, Singapore’s economy expanded 6.7 per cent in the first quarter, compared with an advance estimate of 7.2 per cent. The Reuters poll forecast growth of 7 per cent.

 

Manufacturing expanded 12.4 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, while construction grew 14.7 per cent. The financial services sector grew 13.4 per cent.

 

Economies across Asia are expected to slow this year as a stumbling US economy cuts demand for the continent’s exports, a key driver of growth, but evidence of a slowdown has been mixed so far.

 

Growth in Japan, China and Hong Kong were surprisingly resilient in the first quarter, although South Korea’s economy grew at its slowest quaterly pace in more than three years in the January-March period.

 

The government reiterated on Friday that the Singapore economy is expected to grow between 4 to 6 per cent this year, well below an average growth rate of 8.1 per cent in the last four years.

 

Analysts said the economy’s surprisingly strong growth in the first quarter gave Singapore’s central bank room to tighten monetary policy in April by allowing the Singapore dollar to rise further.

 

However, some economists said the strength of the Singapore dollar would crimp exports growth at a time when demand in the key US and European markets are weakening.

 

United States and Europe buy about a third of Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports.

 

Singapore‘s growth is largely fuelled by manufacturing of goods such as electronics, drugs and oil rigs. However, the economy is leaning more on other sectors such as tourism, financial services and construction to underpin growth. — REUTERS

 

Source: Straits Times

ICJ rules for S’pore on islet dispute with Malaysia

ICJ rules for S’pore on islet dispute with Malaysia 

By Lydia Lim, Senior Political Correspondent 

 

A 28-YEAR-OLD tussle for sovereignty over Pedra Branca and its outcrops came to an end on Friday when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded the main island to Singapore, and two smaller outcrops nearby to Malaysia.

The court did not make a definitive ruling on the third rock of contention, South Ledge which is visible only at low tide. It belongs to whoever owns the territorial waters it sits in, said the court.

 

The judgment was telecast live in both countries, and when Judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh concluded his two-hour statement at 6pm, Singaporeans and Malaysians alike applauded the decision.

 

Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar told reporters at The Hague: ‘We are pleased with the judgment because the court has awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca, which is the main feature in dispute, to Singapore.’

 

Malaysia‘s Foreign Minister Rais Yatim described it as a ‘win-win’ judgment and said that both countries would ‘forge ahead’ in their bilateral relationship.

 

In Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared he was pleased with the result, saying that resorting to the ICJ was ‘a good way for (the two countries) to resolve disagreements or problems while maintaining good relations with each other’.

 

In Malaysia, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak called it a ‘balanced decision’, with Malaysia ‘partly successful’ in its territorial claims.

 

The two hours at the ICJ were suspense-filled and had the Singapore delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar, at the edge of their seats for much of the time.

 

For the first hour, it actually seemed as if the court would find in Malaysia’s favour.

 

Source: Straits Times

New URA Masterplan: Kallang, Paya Lebar the new stars

New URA Masterplan: Kallang, Paya Lebar the new stars 

 

Over 10 years they will become lifestyle and commercial hubs

By Fiona Chan, Property Reporter 

 

GOOD news, Kallang and Paya Lebar: It is your turn to shine.

The two sleepy industrial estates have been identified as Singapore’s next big urban hotspots, as the nation’s land planners draw up blueprints for the next 15 years.

 

Now colourless and underdeveloped, these towns will burst into full bloom over the next decade. Paya Lebar will be transformed into a thriving commercial and civic centre, while Kallang will become a residential and lifestyle hub with homes and offices set among green parks and sandy beaches.

 

They are the stars of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) highly anticipated Draft Master Plan, which was released by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan on Friday.

 

The Master Plan, which guides Singapore’s land use over the next 10 to 15 years, is revised every five years to provide more housing and leisure options and ensure that sufficient space is set aside to support a growing population.

 

The plan also continues a sustained effort to decentralise and reduce congestion in the Central Business District by building offices all across the island, bringing jobs closer to homes.

 

Some of the plan’s highlights, such as the new Jurong Lake District and the new MRT lines, have already been revealed.

 

Other plans were more fully fleshed out on Friday, such as the expansion of the city’s commercial centre, which will double in size to include Marina Bay and Tanjong Pagar, as well as the Beach Road/Ophir-Rochor corridor.

 

The Government also announced that it has earmarked enough land for 328,200 new homes around the island. More than a third will be in the central region bordered by Bishan, Sentosa, Marine Parade and Queenstown.

 

‘We have seen significant transformation of our city over the past 10 years,’ said Mr Mah on Friday.

 

‘The next 10 years can be just as exciting, if not more. Despite the current economic uncertainties, I am optimistic that we can grow from strength to strength.’

 

Property players were impressed by the new Master Plan, saying it proves Singapore can remain a sustainable global city and a promising investment destination.

 

Equally importantly, there is ‘a piece of action for every developer, no matter what kind of homes or offices or hotels they build’, said Mr Simon Cheong, chief of developer SC Global and president of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore.

 

Source: Straits Times

$63 million in conservancy and rental rebates for HDB households

$63 million in conservancy and rental rebates for HDB households 

 

By Theresa Tan 

 

OVER 770,000 HDB households will receive $63 million worth of conservancy charges and rental rebates this fiscal year, which is from April 1 to Mar 31 next year.

All eligible households will get service and conservancy charges (SCC) rebates, of which families living in three and four-room flats will get two months worth of SCC rebates.

 

Among poor households renting flats from the Housing Board, those eligible one-room households will get four months of SCC rebates and three months of rental rebates.

 

These rebates are part of the $4 billion GST offset package, announced last year, to help Singaporeans cope with the rise in the GST in July last year.

 

The HDB will send letters to notify all eligible households by the end of this month to inform them of the amount of rebates they will be getting.

 

Source: Straits Times

Industry players upbeat about plans for 2 new commercial hubs

Industry players upbeat about plans for 2 new commercial hubs

 

SINGAPORE : Industry players are upbeat about the plans for two new commercial hubs, noting that both Kallang and Paya Lebar have great potential for growth, given their close proximity to the city.

 

However, they said the timing of the various projects will have to be calibrated carefully, so as not to place additional strain on the construction sector.

 

In the next 15 years, Singapore will have three new commercial hubs. Jurong Lake District, Paya Lebar Central and Kallang Riverside will cost billions of dollars to develop.

 

According to the National Development Minister, Mah Bow Tan, one or two sites in these new regional centres will be released for sale fairly soon. But market demand will mostly dictate the pace of the developments.

 

Industry players warn against over-developing and easing plot ratios, which they said could trigger another wave of en-bloc sales.

 

Simon Cheong, President, Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore, said: “We are one of the highest in the world – higher than Dubai, Tokyo, Sydney, New York and Hong Kong – in terms of construction costs. By not increasing the plot ratio, I think the government is giving some relief to the construction industry.”

 

The government has already announced that it will defer some S$3 billion worth of public sector projects. Other projects may also join the list.

 

Mr Mah said: “I’ve asked the public agencies to consider deferring more projects if necessary. It makes good sense, (with) construction cost being so high, you won’t get as much value for money.

 

“It also helps to even out the cycles – when construction demand in other areas goes down, this is one way for us to even out the cycle.”

 

Some infrastructural works have already started at the Jurong Lake District, which is being transformed into a regional centre for the western part of Singapore. – CNA/ms

 

Source: Channel NewsAsia

Over 770,000 HDB households to get S$63m worth of rebates

Over 770,000 HDB households to get S$63m worth of rebates

 

SINGAPORE: More than 770,000 HDB households will be receiving S$63 million worth of rebates for their Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) and rents in fiscal year 2008.

 

The Finance Ministry said all eligible households will receive S&CC rebates.

 

Three and four-room households will receive two months worth of S&CC rebates.

 

And among low-income rental households, eligible one-room households will get four months of S&CC rebates as well as an additional three months worth of rental rebates.

 

These rebates are part of the S$4 billion GST Offset Package announced in 2007, to help Singaporeans, especially low and middle-income households, cope with the GST increase in July 2007.

 

The rebates will cost the government S$250 million over 5 years.

 

HDB will be sending notification letters to all eligible households by the end of this month to inform them of the amount of S&CC and rental rebates they will be receiving.

 

Source: Channel NewsAsia

S’pore Q1 GDP fastest since ’05

S’pore Q1 GDP fastest since ’05

 

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s economy grew in the first quarter at its fastest pace since 2005, but slightly below market expectations, and the government raised its 2008 inflation forecast and warned of increased US recessionary risks.

 

Singapore‘s trade-dependent economy expanded at an annualised rate of 14.6 per cent in the first quarter after seasonal adjustments, as a recovery in drugs production boosted growth, the government said on Friday.

 

‘The higher growth has chiefly reflected a strong surge in biomedical manufacturing, coming on top of the sharp contraction in the last quarter when there was a major plant shutdown for maintenance and change in product mix,’ the Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement.

 

First-quarter economic growth was below an advance official estimate of a 16.9 per cent expansion. A Reuters poll estimated the economy would grow an annualised 15.9 per cent in the January-March period.

 

Singapore‘s export-driven economy is seen by analysts as a barometer of demand for Asian goods. Exports were worth twice the Southeast Asian nation’s S$229 billion (US$169 billion) economy last year.

 

From a year earlier, the city-state’s economy expanded 6.7 per cent in the first quarter, compared with an advance estimate of 7.2 per cent. The Reuters poll forecast growth of 7 per cent.

 

Sectoral growth

Manufacturing expanded 12.4 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, while construction grew 14.7 per cent. The financial services sector grew 13.4 per cent.

 

Economies across Asia are expected to slow this year as a stumbling US economy cuts demand for the continent’s exports, a key driver of growth, but evidence of a slowdown has been mixed so far.

 

Growth in Japan, China and Hong Kong were surprisingly resilient in the first quarter, although South Korea’s economy grew at its slowest quarterly pace in more than three years in the January-March period.

 

The government reiterated on Friday that the Singapore economy is expected to grow between 4-6 per cent this year, well below an average growth rate of 8.1 per cent in the last four years.

 

Analysts said the economy’s surprisingly strong growth in the first quarter gave Singapore’s central bank room to tighten monetary policy in April by allowing the Singapore dollar to rise further.

 

However, some economists said the strength of the Singapore dollar would crimp exports growth at a time when demand in the key US and European markets are weakening.

 

United States and Europe buy about a third of Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports.

 

Singapore‘s growth is largely fuelled by manufacturing of goods such as electronics, drugs and oil rigs. However, the economy is leaning more on other sectors such as tourism, financial services and construction to underpin growth. — REUTERS

 

Source: Business Times

ICJ rules for S’pore on islet dispute with Malaysia

ICJ rules for S’pore on islet dispute with Malaysia

 

THE HAGUE – The International Court of Justice ruled on Friday in favour of Singapore in a 28-year sovereignty dispute with Malaysia over a tiny but strategic uninhabited island the size of half a football field.

 

‘The court, by 12 votes to four, finds that sovereignty … belongs to the Republic of Singapore,’ Judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh said.

 

Malaysia claimed original title to Pulau Batu Puteh, while Singapore, which knows the islet as Pedra Branca, argued that sovereignty had passed to it tacitly, having operated the Horsburgh Lighthouse on the island for more than 130 years without any protest from its neighbour.

 

As for the island’s two rocky outcrops, the court ruled that sovereignty of Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia, while that of South Ledge had yet to be determined as it fell within overlapping territorial waters.

 

The granite island is considered important for its strategic position and impact on territorial marine boundaries. It lies 7.7 nautical miles off Johor on the eastern approach to the Singapore Strait from the South China Sea.

 

The court found that the Malaysian sultanate-turned province of Johor had held the original title but had taken ‘no action at all’ regarding the island for more than a century.

 

‘The court concludes … that by 1980 sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh had passed to Singapore,’ Mr Al-Khasawneh said.

 

The dispute arose when Singapore protested in 1980 against a new Malaysian map of its maritime boundaries which claimed the islet for itself.

 

Years of bilateral talks failed to resolve the matter and the parties agreed to seek the intervention of the United Nations’ highest court.

 

As for Middle Rocks, the tribunal found that original title to the feature should remain with Malaysia as the successor to the Sultan of Johor.

 

But South Ledge, a feature visible only at low tide, would now fall ‘within the apparently overlapping territorial waters generated by the mainland of Malaysia, Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, and Middle Rocks’, said the judges.

 

‘… the Court has not been mandated by the parties to draw the line of delimitation with respect to the territorial waters of Malaysia and Singapore in the area in question’.

 

Both countries have said Friday’s ruling would not affect relations. — AFP

 

Source: Business Times

Mah Bow Tan says revised application rules for new flats are fair

Mah Bow Tan says revised application rules for new flats are fair

 

SINGAPORE : National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan has said that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has no intention to raise the administrative fee for the application of new flats.

 

Speaking on the sidelines of the Draft Master Plan Exhibition on Friday, Mr Mah said the fees will remain at the current S$10, so as not to deter genuine flat buyers.

 

He also justified the need to revise the application rules for new Build-To-Order flats.

 

Mr Mah said, “In HDB’s case, we are selling heavily subsidised flats; we need to make sure that those who need the flats, first-timers, young couples getting married, do get a chance to own the flat.

 

“They are given two choices; if they still don’t take it up, I think it’s only fair that we move them to the back of the queue.

 

“We are not even saying ‘don’t come back’, we are saying ‘please move to the back of the queue’, because obviously your need is not so urgent.” – CNA/ms

 

Source: Channel NewsAsia