China, Japan data in focus for Asia this week

Expect weak Chinese data this week: Motley Fool

For Asian markets this week, attention turns to data from China and Japan for the latest insight on the health of the region's two biggest economies.

First up is China, with the release of HSBC's flash purchasing managers' index (PMI) for March on Monday. That's followed by China industrial profit data on Thursday and a slew of Japanese numbers towards the end of the week including the latest retail sales, inflation and household spending data.

The HSBC PMI fell to 48.1 in March, compared with a final reading of 48.5 in February, staying below the 50-mark that divides contraction from expansion in the sector. It is the latest sign of weakness in the world's second biggest economy.

(Read more: China factory activity contracts further in March)

"A sub-50 number would be consistent with the recent news flow and the way China has started this year," Richard Yetsenga, head of global markets research at ANZ, told CNBC ahead of the release.

Pedestrians cross a road in the Ginza district of Tokyo, Japan.
Akio Kon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In Japan, economic data will provide a snapshot of the economy before a rise in the country's consumption tax kicks in next month.

(Read more: Will China's slowdown benefit the rest of the world?)

Economists polled by Reuters expect data at the end of the week to show inflation in Japan rose an annual 1.3 percent in February, after a 1.3 percent rise in January.

Retail sales are forecast to rise 3.2 percent in February from a year earlier, while February household spending is seen up 0.1 percent from a year earlier versus a 1.1 percent rise in January.

"Japanese economic activity data on Friday is likely to show continued reasonable growth albeit it is distorted by the pull forward associated with the coming sales-tax hike," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital in a note. "Inflation will likely show ongoing signs of tracking higher."

(Read more: Japan's exports still not getting a weak-yen boost)

Japan's long road to recovery

Analysts said tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine were also likely to be in focus this week.

Leaders from the Group of Seven (G-7) developed economies are expected to hold talks on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit on Monday to consider the response to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The U.S. and the European Union have imposed sanctions against Russia, which has completed its annexation of Crimea and seized a Ukrainian airbase there at the weekend.

Elsewhere, South Korea releases fourth quarter gross domestic product data on Wednesday, while Australia's central bank publishes its bi-annual Financial Stability Review and Singapore releases February industrial production data the same day.

A string of earnings results are also due this week, with China's Agricultural Bank, Air China and Bank of China all expected to report.

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