The city-state's non-oil domestic exports last month contracted 2.1 per cent, year on year, as the slowdown in external demand began to take its toll. The keenly watched figure gives a critical insight into the condition of Singapore's trade-dependent economy and comes just a week after the government slashed its estimate of gross domestic product growth for this year. GK Goh Securities economist Song Sen Wun said the decline was in line with most expectations and could be followed by a further deterioration in the second quarter. 'This was the last piece of the puzzle for the first quarter,' Mr Song said. 'Looking ahead, you've got weaker United States new orders and slower chip sales. There could be further weakness.' The Trade Development Board (TDB) blamed the slowdown on weakening demand for electronic products and the sluggish performance of the United States, the world's largest economy. It said non-oil domestic exports of S$9.55 billion (about HK$41.17 billion) last month were 2.1 per cent lower than March last year. On a three-month moving average basis, which irons out short-term fluctuations, non-oil exports registered a modest gain of 3.6 per cent. 'In tandem with the weak global demand, domestic exports of electronics contracted for the third consecutive month, by 3.8 per cent,' the TDB said. 'Leading the decline were domestic exports of integrated circuits, personal computers and telecommunication equipment. Export growth of disk drives and parts of personal computers were also sluggish.' Electronics account for 60 per cent of Singapore's non-oil domestic exports. The TDB said non-oil trade to all five top markets - the US, the European Union, Malaysia, Japan and Hong Kong - slipped in March when measured on a single month's year-on-year basis. The decline was especially marked in shipments to the US, down 10 per cent year on year, and Taiwan, down 23 per cent. Last week, the government chopped its estimate of this year's GDP growth by 1.5 percentage points to a range of 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent. The revision brings Singapore into line with many private estimates. 'Against the gloomy global backdrop, the external environment will almost certainly worsen in the coming quarters,' one investment bank said a recent release to clients. 'We will not be surprised if the city-state's real GDP growth slips below 3 per cent year on year in the second and third quarters given the pace of slowdown and high comparison base in the second half of last year.' Mr Song said there might be some respite in data for this month, as trade grew only modestly between March and April last year.