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China's 5th Plenum, Japan data to keep Asia on edge

A paramilitary policeman guards outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.
Feng Li | Getty Images
A paramilitary policeman guards outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.

A top-level Communist party meeting in China where the nation's economic and social policies for the next five years will be finalized, alongside a barrage of Japanese data, will be the key events to watch for in the week ahead.

China's 5th Plenum

The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) policy-making Central Committee will convene in Beijing on Monday for the fifth plenary session – a key four-day meeting that will be closely watched by investors worldwide.

The fifth plenum is the fifth out of seven major meetings held by the Central Committee, a political body that is made up of the Party's top leaders. Plenum topics will likely include a lowering of China's growth target, accelerating state-sector reforms and redoubling efforts to reduce pollution, analysts say.

"Financial markets will be eager to decipher any changes in overall tone as well as the elements of further support for specific sectors. Top of the list are urbanization-centric sectors expected to carry the load of achieving the ambitious goal of lifting China towards the ranks of developed economies in only five years' time," Reorient Financial Markets said in a report dated October 15.

"Markets may also regain interest on sectors exposed to the massive upgrade in consumer behavior as wealth continues to accumulate rapidly. Finally, we expect capital goods manufacturing to take center stage for the 'Made in China 2025' and 'One Belt One Road' national strategy," the report added.

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Japan data to disappoint

The barrage of monthly indicators on tap this week, in particular industrial output, will show that Japan, the world's third-largest economy, slipped back into recession in the third quarter, a note from Moody's Analytics said. Japan emerged from recession only in the final quarter of 2014.

Industrial production numbers, due for release Thursday, is predicted to have fallen 0.3 percent on-month in September, compared with a 0.5 percent retreat last month.

"Falling production will make a strong case for Japan's slide into another recession in the third quarter. We will likely see a fall in production in the export-orientated manufacturing sector, as external demand begins to fade on global growth concerns," Moody's economist Alaistair Chan wrote in a research note released last Friday.

Keenly-watched consumer prices, scheduled for release on Friday, could add to the case for additional monetary stimulus. The core consumer price index, which includes oil products but excludes fresh food prices, is seen dipping 0.1 percent in September from the year-ago period, according to Moody's estimates, unchanged from the prior month.

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"Price growth remains elusive in Japan ... the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) inflation target looks like a long shot now, with consumer and business inflation expectations also falling. With the inflation target drifting away, the central bank likely will fire additional stimulus measures," Chan added, referring to the BOJ's aim of achieving 2 percent inflation next year.

However, not all analysts expect the BOJ to step on the easing pedal when it meets on Thursday for its two-day policy meeting.

UOB's senior economist Alvin Liew told CNBC last week: "The BOJ is unlikely to do more easing and [will] probably maintain the status quo position at least for 2015. The reason is that we think that the BOJ policy makers view further monetary easing to shore up inflation as a counterproductive step in the foreseeable future and that additional stimulus could trigger significant declines in the yen, which in turn would damage confidence while giving little mileage to generate inflation."

Other Japanese data due include September retail sales on Wednesday, as well as household spending and unemployment rate on Friday.

Fed, RBNZ decisions

The rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) commences its monthly two-day meeting on Tuesday and market watchers expect the Federal Reserve to hold fire a bit longer on its first interest rate rise in nearly a decade.

"While financial markets have improved since the last meeting, U.S. economic data has been mixed suggesting that underlying U.S. growth may have slowed a touch and uncertainties regarding growth in emerging countries remain," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital, wrote in a note published October 23.

The Fed is expected to signal that it's inclined toward a year-end liftoff, but key data points are unlikely to show enough improvements to support that, Oliver said. The economist added that the probability of a December rate hike was now below 50 percent.

Policymakers in New Zealand are also seen likely to stand pat on rates when they meet on Thursday, with economists polled by Reuters forecasting the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) would leave the official cash rate unchanged at 2.75 percent.

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Elsewhere in the region, third quarter gross domstic product (GDP) due on Friday could paint a "dim" outlook for Taiwan's economy, which is reeling from a collapse in exports brought on by a slowdown in major export market China.

Advance estimates for the July-September quarter likely showed Taiwan's economy contracted 0.6 percent on-year, according to Moody's Analytics, compared with 0.5 percent growth in the previous three months.

"Taiwan's export-orientated economy is struggling with weak Chinese demand, which is driving down industrial production and trade. The central bank cut rates in September and this should boost growth in the fourth quarter. However, given Taiwan's reliance on Chinese demand, the outlook is dim," Moody's economist Emily Dabbs said.

Exports fell for the eighth straight month in September, down 14.6 percent from a year earlier, data from the Ministry of Finance showed. The official figure was wider than a forecasted 11.2 percent decrease and August's 12.0 percent fall.

To support faltering growth, Taiwan's central bank lowered its benchmark interest rates in September for the first time since 2009.