By Jamie McGeever
(Reuters) - A look at the day ahead in Asian markets from Jamie McGeever.
Asian markets are looking to round off the week on a positive note on Friday, with regional stocks on course to chalk up their fourth straight weekly rise.
The relative calm may not last, however, if recession risks and fears accelerate. There are good reasons to believe this is in the cards.
Indications from the initial batch of November purchasing managers index (PMI) data released so far show that private sector business activity is weaker than forecast and in many countries is contracting, most notably in the United States.
In Asia, Japan's manufacturing activity is shrinking at its fastest pace in two years, flash estimates showed. Investors will be paying close attention to the PMI reports for most other Asian countries - including economic heavyweights China, South Korea and India - due out on Dec. 1.
Fed officials, meanwhile, left markets a Thanksgiving morsel to chew over from their latest policy meeting minutes. A U.S. recession next year, they wrote, is "almost as likely as the baseline (forecast)."
Wall Street dismissed this on Wednesday, but it can't do so for long. Surely.
For now though, equity investors' glass is half full. The MSCI Asia ex-Japan Index is on course to post its fourth consecutive weekly rise, and so far in November it is up 14%. This would be its best month since March 2009 and one of its best on record.
Of course this comes at the tail end of a brutal year for world markets in which Asia has suffered from soaring U.S. interest rates and historically weak domestic currencies.
Like stocks, regional FX markets are enjoying a period of relative calm as weaker U.S. inflation readings have weighed on the dollar. Some have consolidated more than others: recent intervention has boosted the yen, and the Thai baht has appreciated six weeks in a row.
Investors will be hoping for more consolidation and calm on Friday, leaving the potential PMI fireworks for next week.
Three key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Friday:
- Japan Tokyo inflation (October)
- Malaysia inflation (October)
- Singapore industrial production (October)
(Reporting by Jamie McGeever in Orlando, Fla.; Editing by Josie Kao)