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Morning Bid: Markets subdued, China trade to rebound

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk past an electric monitor displaying the Japanese yen exchange rate against the U.S. dollar outside a brokerage in Tokyo

By Jamie McGeever

(Reuters) - A look at the day ahead in Asian markets.

Asian markets are set for a sluggish open on Thursday, with mixed U.S. corporate earnings, a firm dollar, and an upward drift in U.S. bond yields dampening investors' appetite for risky assets.

The Japanese yen is back in the spotlight, its latest bout of weakness prompting warnings from Tokyo on Wednesday that, so far at least, seem to have gone unheeded. The dollar is on the front foot and gunning for 156.00 yen.

There are a few potential market-moving economic indicators and events on Thursday for investors to get their teeth into, including Chinese trade data, a monetary policy decision from Malaysia, and first quarter GDP figures from the Philippines.


Asian markets won't get much steer from Wall Street, which ended mixed on Wednesday. One source of relief may be oil - Brent crude printed a two-month low below $82 a barrel, and although inflation worries are running high, oil is down around 10% in recent weeks.

Japan's financial heavy hitters were out on Wednesday warning that the yen's weakness could trigger action from policymakers.

Bank of Japan Governor Kazuo Ueda said the central bank could raise rates again, and Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki voiced "strong concern" over the negative impact of a weak yen and repeated Tokyo's readiness to intervene in the FX market.

The warnings have had no effect and the dollar was changing hands at 155.50 yen late on Wednesday, up on the day and back to where it was at the BOJ's April 26 policy announcement. It is now only two yen away from where it was when Japan carried out its second suspected round of intervention on May 1.

On the data front, figures from Beijing are expected to show Chinese imports and exports swung to year-on-year growth in April. But export growth is expected to be modest as factory owners wrestle with weak overseas demand and overcapacity.

Trade relations between China and the West remain fraught, with the latest twist coming from U.S. tech giant Intel saying its sales would take a hit after the U.S. revoked some of the chipmaker's export licenses for a customer in China.

Bank Negara Malaysia will leave its key interest rate at 3.00% for as sixth consecutive meeting and keep it there at least until 2026, despite a weakening currency and a steady inflation outlook, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

Figures from Manila, meanwhile, are expected to show that the Philippines' economy expanded at an annual rate of 5.9% in the first quarter, but quarter-on-quarter growth is expected to halve to 1.0% from 2.1% in the October-December period.

The Japanese earnings season rolls on, with major companies including Nissan, Nippon Steel, Panasonic and Softbank reporting full-year 2024 results on Thursday.

Here are key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Thursday:

- China trade (April)

- Malaysia interest rate decision

- Philippines GDP (Q1)

(Reporting and Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Josie Kao)