Singapore's exports improved in February, helped by a rise in shipments to the US and a moderation in the decline in exports to China.

The rise in exports was unexpected as a median forecast in a Reuters survey showed a 2.6 percent contraction.

Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) rose 2.1 percent in February, compared with a 10.1 percent overall decline in January.

Shipments from the pharmaceuticals sector surged last month, helping overall export numbers, data released Thursday by International Enterprise Singapore showed on Thursday.

Pharmaceuticals shipment recorded a 40 percent rise in February from a year earlier while domestic exports of electronics rose 0.7 percent.

The country's trade agency also said exports to China fell 1.2 percent in February from a year earlier.

The decline was much less than the 25.2 percent fall in January, indicating that the impact of a Chinese slowdown on the trade-reliant Singapore economy was moderating.

However, Standard Chartered Bank economist Jeff Ng said despite the surprise increase, the numbers were not impressive as the export base remained low compared with a year earlier.

"The result looks weak, given that the 3-month moving average continued to fall 5.6 percent year-on-year," Ng said, according to Reuters.