Data deluge puts Japan in spotlight this week

A woman uses her mobile device outside a clothing store in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, Japan.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg via Getty Images
A woman uses her mobile device outside a clothing store in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, Japan.

Japan should remain the key focus for Asian markets in the week ahead as investors look to a slew of data on tap to confirm that the economic giant is poised for a comeback.

Government data last Tuesday showed the world's third-largest economy expanded an annualized 2.4 percent, marking its fastest pace in a year and beating the 1.5 percent print expected in a Reuters poll. The optimism led the benchmark Nikkei 225 up 2.7 percent for the week.

For the month of April, exports climbed 8.0 percent from a year earlier, beating Reuters expectations for a 6.4 percent rise, according to figures released by the Ministry of Finance early Monday. Imports fell 4.2 percent on-year, compared with expectations for a 1.5 percent decline.

Meanwhile, inflation, jobs, industrial production and household spending data for the same month are all due for release at the end of the week.

"In Japan, expect to see labor market indicators remain solid, a slight improvement in household spending and a bounce in industrial production," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital, wrote in a note published Friday.

However, the closely-watched consumer price index (CPI) may disappoint. Moody's Analytics expects the core inflation rate to rise 2.2 percent from a year earlier in April, unchanged from the previous month. Excluding the effects of the consumption sales tax hike a year ago, the nationwide consumer price index ticked up a modest 0.2 percent.

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GDP-watch

Several Asian economies will be on GDP-watch this week, including India, the Philippines and Singapore.

On Tuesday, Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) for the January-March period may see a slight upward revision following better-than-expected export and industrial production figures in March.

The government's advance estimate released on April 14 showed the city-state economy grew at a faster-than-expected pace of 2.1 percent in the three months to March from the year-ago period.

Philippines' growth data due out on Wednesday will show the Southeast Asian economy growing by 7.3 percent on-year in the first quarter, according to estimates from Moody's Analytics, accelerating from the previous quarter's 7 percent.

Meanwhile, India's economy could expand 7.2 percent in the final quarter of the current fiscal year, forecasts by Moody's showed, slightly slower than the 7.5 percent in the October-December period.

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Beyond Asia, markets will be watching the revised U.S. GDP print due Friday. Growth is expected to have contracted in the first three months of 2015, much below the modest 0.2 percent growth that preliminary figures had indicated.

But, some experts say markets should take the figure with a pinch of salt.

"There is greater-than-normal confusion around [the GDP print] as it appears that the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis's seasonal adjustment process is understating March quarter's GDP growth and a readjustment would put it around 1.8 percent annualized," AMP Capital's Oliver said.

The strength of the U.S. recovery is closely monitored as a gauge for when the Federal Reserve could hike interest rates. Other monthly indicators on tap this week, including durable goods orders, new home sales and consumer sentiment, will allay fears that the recovery is running out of steam, Oliver added.