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Data dump shapes up busy week ahead for Asia

Singapore's downtown central financial district.
Getty Images
Singapore's downtown central financial district.

A slew of disappointing second-quarter growth reports are on the cards Asia in the week ahead, starting off with Singapore on Tuesday and followed by Malaysia on Thursday and Hong Kong on Friday.

According to eleven economists surveyed by Reuters, Singapore's final gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract 4.6 percent on-quarter in the April-June period, in line with the government's earlier estimate, on the back of continued weakness in the housing sector and electronics exports.

On a year-on-year basis, GDP probably expanded 1.5 percent in the second quarter, slightly below the advance estimate of 1.7 percent.

"Slower currency appreciation could help export competitiveness in coming months… [while] public infrastructure investment has boosted growth somewhat, but the economy is expected to grow below potential for the foreseeable future," analysts from Moody's Analytics wrote in a note issued Friday.

Malaysia's annual growth likely slowed to 4.5 percent in the previous quarter, a Reuters poll showed, down from 5.6 percent in the first three months of 2015, as the persisting decline in commodity prices and weak domestic demand weigh.

Scheduled for release on Friday, Hong Kong's second-quarter GDP is seen growing a meagre 0.1 percent from the previous quarter, Moody's Analytics forecasted, as slower income growth and the anti-corruption campaign in China take on toll on the city's trade, retail and financial sectors.

The special administrative region managed to expand a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent in the March quarter.

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Central banks

Thursday brings the Bank of Korea's (BOK) policy meeting, which will likely be closely watched following less-than-stellar GDP for the June quarter due to a deadly outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and poor exports.

South Korea's president Park Geun-hye said last Thursday that the economy was in need of a "major surgery." However, analysts from Societe Generale believe the central bank is unlikely to roll out further easing this year.

"Firstly, Q2 GDP shows that weaker growth was driven by MERS concerns, while key growth drivers [stayed] strong. The BOK will be on hold even if it were to lower the GDP forecast again in October, as long as the disappointing GDP reflects lingering impacts from MERS," the note released on July 29 said.

Meanwhile, concerns over the country's sky-high household debt and worries that a weaker won could lead to rapid capital outflow, should reduce the likelihood of further easing, Societe Generale analysts added.

The Philippines' central bank is also expected to keep its monetary policy unchanged on Thursday, but as consumer prices touched their slowest pace in two decades in June, Barclays economists believe the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) could defy the easing trend among global central banks later this year.

"With the risk of El Nino to food prices this year and growth likely to recover strongly from the second quarter, it is unlikely that the BSP would join other central banks in easing monetary policy. We forecast the next policy move will be a hike, most likely in the fourth quarter of 2015, after the Federal Reserve begins tightening," Barclays said.

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Other data on tap

Economic indicators due from Asia's three biggest economies will also be key risk events for investors this week.

According to Moody's Analytics, Wednesday's data dump is expected to show a slight improvement in the Chinese economy, with July retail sales and industrial production growing steadily amid a pick-up in domestic demand.

China's retail sales likely held steady from June's 10.60 percent rise, Moody's estimates showed, while government industrial output figures for July is seen advancing 7.0 percent, higher than the 6.80 percent increase in the preceding month. Fixed asset investment for the same month probably rose 11.8 percent from the year-earlier period, above July's gain of 11.4 percent, as previous attempts of monetary easing by the People's Bank of China (PBOC) boost bank lending, Moody's analysts wrote.

In India, July's wholesale prices-based inflation due on Friday could chalk up its ninth straight month of deflation, with estimates from Reuters expecting a fall of 2.4 percent from a year earlier.

"Some upward pressure may come from food articles due to seasonal vagaries, but we still expect a broad-based decline in prices because of lower energy and manufactured-good costs. The falling WPI confirms that India continues to operate under a negative output gap [and] further rate cuts are on the agenda," Moody's analysts said.

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) releases the minutes of its previous policy meeting on Wednesday, while the country's core machinery orders for June is scheduled for Thursday before the market open.