The much anticipated Singapore budget was announced earlier this week. Notably, the budget included a S$1.1 billion bicentennial package. The package includes a GST cash voucher of up to S$300 for around 1.2 million Singaporeans. Special groups will also receive additional bonuses. Among them, middle-income earners will have a 50% personal income tax rebate of up to S$200, while Singaporeans aged 17 to 20 will receive a top-up of S$500 in their post-secondary accounts for further studies.
Also, the budget included a Merdeka generation package for the 500,000 Singaporeans born in the 1950s. The package includes a S$200 Medisave top up each year for five years, and a S$100 top-up to the Passion silver card, among other additional benefits.
Other notable announcements in the budget include decreasing the quota on foreign workers, the setting up of a S$5.1 billion long-term care support fund, rebates for housing board households and tightened GST import relief for travellers.
Japan posted its biggest decline in exports in two years, with exports falling 8.4% in January from a year ago, faster than the forecast of 5.5% drop. The latest figure follows a 3.9% drop in December. This came as global trade slowed due to the China-US trade conflict.
Singapore’s non-oil exports also shrank by 10.1% in January. This was the biggest decline in over two years. Electronic product exports fared the worst, declining 15.9%, while non-electronic exports fell 7.9%.
In company-related news, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Limited (SGX: O39) and United Overseas Bank Ltd (SGX: U11) had mixed results for the final quarter of 2018. OCBC posted an 11% decline in net profit in the fourth quarter due to lower earnings from its subsidiary Great Eastern Holding Limited (SGX: G07). UOB posted a 7% year-on-year rise in earnings in the fourth quarter, but profit fell 7% from the previous quarter. UOB Chief executive, Wee Ee Cheong said that the bank expects global uncertainties to weigh on business sentiment in the near term.
China and the United States will continue its current round of trade negotiations through the weekend. This round of meetings was supposed to end on Friday, but Chinese vice premier will stay in Washington for two extra days. According to trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, who is leading talks for the White House, the two sides have made progress but have yet to make a breakthrough to stop higher American Tariffs kicking in next week. If an agreement is not made, tariffs for US$200 billion worth of imports will increase to 25% from 10% on 1 March. Chinese exports to the United States have fallen for two straight months. Both economies are expected to expand at a slower pace this year.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is ready to fly its first commercially built space crafts for humans to the International Space Station. The 27-foot long Crew Dragon will launch at 2.48am U.S Eastern Time and reach the space station at 5.55am the following day. NASA awarded Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Boeing Co. a combined US$6.8 billion in September 2014 to revive the United States’ ability to fly to the space station.
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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. The Motley Fool Singapore contributor Jeremy Chia does not own shares in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool Singapore has a recommendation on Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. Limited and United Overseas Bank Ltd.