Output rose 21.7% on a month-on-month and seasonally adjusted basis, data from the Singapore Economic Development Board showed, the biggest jump since January 2011. The median of six economists' forecasts was for a 2% fall.
On a year-on-year (y-o-y) basis, output rose 16.5% — the biggest increase since January 2018 — well above expectations for a 6.3% drop.
Pharmaceutical output increased 126.6% y-o-y, with higher production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and biological products. Shipments of pharmaceuticals pushed Singapore's annual exports up 17.6% in March, data last week showed.
It was not immediately clear whether the surge in pharmaceuticals production was related to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 2.6 million people globally.
Pharmaceutical output is inherently volatile because production happens in batches, which can take anywhere from a few days to weeks to make.
Electronics output decreased 9.2% in March y-o-y.