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China data, Indian election in focus for Asia

The main drivers for Asian markets this week will be key economic data from Asia's largest economies, Australia's federal budget and the results of India's general election.

In Japan, the key figure to watch will be Thursday's first-quarter gross-domestic product (GDP), analysts say.

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A rise in consumer spending ahead of a rise in Japan's sales tax on April 1 is expected to have boosted economic growth in the first quarter, while activity is seen slowing in the months ahead as consumption slows.

"Japanese March quarter GDP growth is likely to be a strong 1 percent quarter-on-quarter, but this will reflect the bring forward effect associated with the April sales tax hike and so will overstate Japanese growth just as June quarter growth will understate it," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital.

Economists surveyed in a Reuters poll expect the economy grew at an annualized pace of 4.2 percent in the first quarter, which would mark a sixth straight quarter of expansion.

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Japan's economy recorded a smaller-than-expected current account surplus in March as the country ramped up purchases of gas and oil imports to make up for its lack of nuclear power, data on Monday showed.

The surplus stood at 116.4 billion yen ($1.14 billion), below expectations for a 305 billion yen surplus. It was the second monthly surplus in a row.

Seamstresses work at a clothing company in Huaibei, China.
ChinaFotoPress | Getty Images
Seamstresses work at a clothing company in Huaibei, China.

Tuesday will bring a raft of Chinese data, such as industrial output, retail sales and fixed asset investment (FAI) for April.

According to Citi Economics, industrial production is expected to rise an annual 8.4 percent in April, slower than March's 8.8 percent figure. Nominal FAI growth is seen slowing to around 17.4 percent for the first four months of the year while retail sales may have risen an annual 12.5 percent year-to-date, up marginally from March's 12.2 percent.

In Australia, the main focus will be the government's federal budget on Tuesday.

"The budget is expected to a show steeper decline in the budget deficit than currently projected with a return to surplus by 2019-20 on the back of spending cuts and tax hikes along with slightly more optimistic growth assumptions," Oliver said.

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The government expects a deficit of A$47 billion in the current fiscal year. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have warned that severe measures will have to be taken to prevent the budget deficit from ballooning to A$123 billion over the next four years.

India will also be in the spotlight as its five-week long voting process draws to a close on Monday, with the final outcome of the election due Friday.

Opinion polls indicate that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi, is set for victory on the back of promises to improve infrastructure and curb corruption.

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India's benchmark stock index has surged 8 percent since the beginning of the year on optimism over the party's investor-friendly policies.

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