China Releases Q1 GDP, Qantas Bid Closes This Week

It is always encouraging to start the week with a holy occasion -- especially when we ended the previous week off on a jittery "Friday the 13th" trading session. Pope Benedict's XVI 80th birthday on Monday could, if anything, set a positive tone to the trading week.

But leading up to that, the weekend is set for a big financial pow-wow as the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers head to Washington D.C. for the IMF and World Bank meetings. Topping the agenda -- discussions on global imbalances in exchange rates. But whether or not the yen's weakness will be singled out, remains a question mark.

Watching U.S. Inflation

Yet another week goes by with Asian investors fretting over the direction of U.S. interest rates. More clues will be unveiled next week as U.S.March Consumer Price Index (CPI)numbers are released on Tuesday. That will set the direction for markets in Asia. Remember, stocks sank mid-week after minutes of the previous FOMC meeting suggested that inflation, rather than an economic slowdown, was the primary concern for the central bank. Even though Chicago's Fed President Moskow stopped short of calling for a rate hike, the March CPI data will offer much-needed clarity on the central bank's next move.

Business Calendar April 16 - 20

Monday April 16 U.S. March Retail Sales
Tuesday April 17 U.S. March CPI, Subprime Hearing
Thursday April 19 China Q1 GDP, Japan Feb Tertiary Activity Index

Apart from U.S. CPI figures, it will be a fairly light week on the data front in Asia. Japan's Tertiary Activity Index marks the only significant release in the country next Thursday, and according to Barclays Capital, this figure is expected to fall 0.8% month-on-month in January, largely as a reaction to December's gain.

We'll also be checking the pulse of the Chinese economy on Thursday, where a local think tank predicts that its first-quarter gross domestic product will expand to 11%, thanks to rapid growth in consumption and exports. But stronger Chinese exports touch a raw nerve. The IMF has said that China's rising current account surplus makes a case for more "decisive" appreciation of the yuan. We'll be watching the G7 meeting for more comments on the yuan.

On the corporate front, China Citic Bank closes its initial public offering on Thursday in what could be the biggest listing by a Chinese bank. People familiar with the deal have said the bank hopes to raise about $2.5 billion in a dual listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Qantas Airways flies onto our radar screens once again, as a US$9 billion buyout bid for the carrier closes on Friday. The Macquarie-led deal has proved to be a complicated and controversial one, but Airline Partner's decision to restructure its bid only goes to show the determined this private equity group is.

High rollers gfx.jpg

If placing your bets on this deal requires lessons in risk-taking, you might want to draw inspiration from watching CNBC's casino special -- High Rollers -- a week-long special on Asia Squawk Box from April 16th to 20th. High Rollers will look at the latest issues and opportunities facing the casino business and how investors can capitalize on the phenomenal growth in the gaming industry in Asia.


Thailand is closed for the Songkran water Festival on Monday as locals make a splash to usher in the Thai new year.

A Look Back...

And that’s the week ahead for Asia. We'll leave you with some special days of note …

This Week In History

1837 April 17 J.P. Morgan, American financier and philanthropist was born
1955 April 18 Albert Einstein died
570 April 20 Prophet Muhammed, founder of Islam was born
1889 April 20 Adolf Hitler, Austrian-born dictator who ruled Germany during the WWII was born