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Central Banks in Driving Seat for Asia Markets

Sunday, 19 May 2013 | 7:33 PM ET
Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan

A two-day Bank of Japan meeting, a speech by the Federal Reserve's chief and minutes from the latest Reserve Bank of Australia gathering put central banks in focus for Asian markets in the week ahead.

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) concludes its policy meeting on Wednesday and economists are not expecting any significant changes so soon after the central bank unveiled radical measures just last month to help revive a moribund economy and end two decades of inflation.

That's not to say the BOJ's policy statement won't be scrutinized closely for its latest thoughts on the state of the Japanese economy. Indeed, the BOJ could use the opportunity to reiterate its concern about the volatile Japanese government bond (JGB) market.

Yields on benchmark JGBs have doubled since the BOJ said on April 4 it would pump $1.4 trillion in to the economy to meet a 2 percent inflation target in around two years. The concern in Tokyo is that a sudden and rapid rise in bond yields could affect the interest payments on Japan's hefty debt pile.

"In the short-term, we don't see the JGB volatility undermining the BOJ policies under [Governor Haruhiko] Kuroda, however it will cap the performance of the equity market until earnings visibility increases," Sean Darby, global head of equity strategy at Jefferies.

(Read More: This Is Now the World's Most Volatile Bond Market)

Fed chief Ben Bernanke testifies before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee Wednesday and that is expected to be a central focus for markets globally amid renewed talk that the U.S. central bank may be getting ready to unwind its massive monetary stimulus program sooner rather than later.

"This week we could get some clarity on the conditions under which QE [quantitative easing] will be tapered off but not a signal that it will be tapered off," Michael Spencer, chief economist, Asia for Deutsche Bank told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box."

(Read More: Bulls Will Drive Market but Bernanke is Steering)

And following a surprise interest-rate cut earlier this month by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), the minutes from its meeting could be in the spotlight when they are released on Tuesday.

"The minutes from the RBA's last board meeting will be looked at closely as a guide to how strong the RBA's easing bias remains, after having used up some of its "scope" to ease with this month's rate cut," said AMP Capital's Chief Economist Shane Oliver in a research note.

"Further easing is likely this year to provide confidence that a pick-up in non-mining activity will provide an offset to slowing mining investment," he added.

On the data front, HSBC releases its May flash China Purchasing Managers Index, which provides a snapshot of manufacturing activity, on Thursday.

Both the HSBC and official Chinese PMI data for April suggest the recession in the euro zone and sluggish U.S. demand are weighing on China's economic recovery.

Weaker than expected economic data released last week meanwhile suggests the world's second largest economy is facing another quarter of disappointng growth after slowing unexpectedly in the first three months of this year.

(Read More: China Shaping Up for Another Disappointing Quarter)

Other data due for release in the Asia-Pacific region this week include Taiwan industrial output numbers and first quarter gross domestic product data for Singapore on Thursday. Markets in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand will be closed on Friday for a public holiday.

By CNBC.Com's Dhara Ranasinghe; follow her on Twitter @DharaCNBC

Contact World Economy

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