Investing.com - The weakened further on Monday in Asia as gross domestic product figures from Tokyo highlighted weakness in the fourth quarter and trade data from China showed a sharp drop in imports.
China reported trade data for January with exports slumping 11.2%, compared to an expected 1.9% year-on-year drop, and imports crashing 18.8%, compared to a 0.8% decline seen, for a trade balance surplus of $63.03 billion, wider than the $58.85 billion expected.
"For a start, Chinese trade growth is notoriously volatile during the first quarter due to the shifting timing of Lunar New Year which makes the monthly data less comparable with the previous year. Admittedly, we had expected the earlier timing of Lunar New Year compared with 2015 to have provided a seasonal boost to exports last month given that more of the pre-holiday rush to meet orders should have taken place in January this year. That said, the impact of these seasonal distortions can be difficult to predict," Capital Economics said in a note to clients after the data.
"Secondly, efforts to arbitrage the gap between the offshore and onshore exchange rate appear to have inflated export growth in December. As such, the slowdown in export growth in January may partly reflect the easing of this (artificial) boost to shipments – the gap between the onshore and offshore rates narrowed last month. In a similar vein, capital outflows disguised as trade flows are likely to have inflated imports at the end of last year. With policymakers having recently begun cracking down on such illicit flows, headline import growth may have been hit as a result."
Earlier, Japan's GDP contracted 0.4% quarter-on- quarter, or an annualized 1.4%, in the fourth quarter, hit by sluggish consumer spending amid a slow wage recovery and uncertain growth prospects. An unexpected rise in business investment was outweighed by declines in other key components of the gross domestic product.
Markets in both the U.S. and Canada will be closed for national holidays.
In the week ahead investors will be watching U.S. inflation data for indications on whether the Federal Reserve will raise rates at all this year. As well, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is to testify on monetary policy before the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, in Brussels.
However, China's National Bureau of Statistics isn't releasing retail sales, industrial output or fixed-asset investment figures this week because the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday, which changes every year, distorts the data too much to make any comparisons meaningful.
During the break, China's central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said in an interview at the weekend there is no basis for continued yuan depreciation.
In an wide-ranging interview with financial magazine Caixin, Zhou spoke during a week-long holiday in China with markets shut, warning the PBOC won't allow speculators to dominate market sentiment, and downplayed concerns over the sharp decline in the country's foreign-exchange reserves over the past few months.
Also on Monday, in Japan, capacity utilization for December month-on-month is due as well as industrial production expected down 1.3%. The country reported that the tertiary industry activity index fell 0.8%, compared to an expected gain of 0.1%.
The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, rose 0.24% to 96.22.
Last week, the dollar regained ground on Friday after forecast beating U.S. retail sales figures for January supported the view that the Federal Reserve is likely to stay on a tightening path as other world central banks ease monetary policy.
The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.2% last month, beating expectations for an increase of 0.1%.
Retail figures used to calculate gross domestic product, which exclude cars, fuel, building materials and food services, rose 0.6% in January after a 0.3% fall in the previous month.
The upbeat data boosted the dollar against the yen, with USD/JPY up 0.7% at 113.21 in late trade, extending a pullback from 15-month lows of 110.96 set on Thursday. Despite the rebound in the dollar, the pair still ended the week down 3.19% as persistent concerns over slowing global growth, the effects of negative interest rates on banks and falling oil prices underpinned demand for the safe haven yen.
The dollar was also higher against the euro and the Swiss franc, which tends to be bought by investors in times of risk aversion.
In the euro zone, data on Friday showed that the economy grew just 0.3% in the fourth quarter, matching growth in the previous quarter.
The weak data added to pressure on the European Central Bank to ramp up its monetary easing program as concerns over the outlook for the global economy mount.
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