Factory activity in Singapore continued to rise last month, but at a slower pace than October's robust expansion.
But the key electronics segment was a bright spark, sending a power surge through the manufacturing sector, the survey showed yesterday.
The mixed data "could reflect the approach of the year-end lull as the earlier Christmas season orders were met and delivered", said DBS economist Irvin Seah.
The slowdown is also in line with the "stops and starts" seen in the global trend of manufacturing activity, noted OCBC economist Selena Ling.
While electronics manufacturers are doing well, other segments are likely facing some specific industry pressures, she added.
For instance, drug production has been underperforming lately "both on the production and export fronts", Ms Ling said. This could be due to the production of a different, less valuable mix of active pharmaceutical ingredients.
Despite the lethargic survey data, economists were in a festive mood yesterday, tipping a more upbeat outlook for Singapore's manufacturing sector next year.
"With the improved global outlook, manufacturers will have a lot to look forward to in 2014," Mr Seah said. "Regional demand will likely stay buoyant and export sales should remain brisk."
CIMB economist Song Seng Wun had a similar view. "While its latest (data) suggests some degree of uncertainty for Singapore, the global picture is more encouraging," he said. "We are hopeful that Singapore's manufacturers will be able to ride the upturn in global demand."
Yesterday's figures showed the overall purchasing managers' index (PMI) for Singapore dipped 0.4 point to 50.8 last month, while the electronics index inched up 0.2 point to 51.2.
Any reading above 50 indicates an expansion in manufacturing. The index is an early barometer of factory output and is published by the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management.
PMIs across the world painted a picture of stronger factory output last month. The global manufacturing PMI rose to 53.2, its highest in 32 months, noted Mr Song.
In particular, the US and Europe put up a better showing than expected, as did South Korea, Taiwan and India, said Ms Ling. But Indonesia and Vietnam lagged.
Still, ABN Amro economist Han de Jong was optimistic. "While business confidence was weaker in several countries, confidence is strengthening in the economies with strong links to global trade," he said. "The implication is that global growth is set to broaden and strengthen."
But HSBC economist Frederic Neumann flagged a "nagging feeling" about Asia's manufacturing.
The level of PMIs in emerging Asia "hardly signals soaring growth", while export orders and employment also remain weak.
Rather than a sharp growth acceleration across Asia, it is more "steady as she goes", he said.