Asian stock markets ended last week with losses as increasing concerns over the global growth slowdown weighed on sentiment.
Markets are expected to begin the week on a negative note after official data Saturday showed that Chinese manufacturing activity shrank for the first time in nine months, raising concerns over the growth slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.
The data released by the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing showed that official the Purchasing Managers' Index declined to 49.2 in August from 50.1 in July, the lowest reading since November 2011, and also fell short of economists' estimate of 50. The index dropped into contraction territory below 50 and is a reflection of the deteriorating export situation, which calls for more aggressive policy easing.
U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech at Jackson Hole, Wyo., Friday was interpreted by market participants as a stronger push for QE3 than before and will offer some support to the markets, however. Bernanke said the central bank would provide additional policy accommodation if necessary, although he stopped short of providing a clear signal of imminent action.
"This was in line with what we were expecting. He left the door open but didn't announce anything explicit. He doesn't intend to front-run his own FOMC (policy) meeting," Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab Corp, told Reuters.
Market participants are likely to focus on the European Central Bank's monetary policy decision Thursday and the U.S. non-farm payrolls report Friday, which could swing things the other way again as a big jump in the jobs report could stop the central bank from taking additional measures at its upcoming Fed Open Markets Committee meeting.
Expectations are running extremely high that the ECB will unveil plans to help lower Spanish and Italian bond yields and will cut interest rates to record lows at its policy meeting on Thursday. Recent comments from ECB President Mario Draghi and other Governing Council members have suggested that interventions will be large enough to reach their objective.
Draghi canceled his Saturday speech at the Jackson Hole conference due to a heavy workload. Market participants believe the policymakers are attempting to make progress in deciding which policies and tools should be utilized to support the single currency region before its next governing council meeting.
"We continue to forecast a 25bp cut in the Refi rate and a narrowing in the rates corridor, leaving the deposit rate unchanged at 0 percent. We also expect a further loosening in collateral standards aimed at improving peripheral banks' access to central bank liquidity, but no new ultra-long LTRO at this stage," said a note from Credit Agricole.
On the economic front this week, South Korea is due to release the August GDP and inflation reports while China and India will release their August services PMIs.
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