Core machine orders in Japan jumped a seasonally adjusted 18.0 percent on month, the Cabinet Office said on Thursday - coming in at 942.7 billion yen.
That blew past expectations for an increase of 2.9 percent following the 6.0 percent slide in October.
On a yearly basis, core machine orders climbed 5.3 percent - again exceeding expectations for a decline of 5.3 percent following the 6.1 percent fall in the previous month.
Manufacturing orders rose 0.6 percent on month and lost 12.8 percent on year, while non-manufacturing orders surged 27.8 percent on month and 22.5 percent on year. Government orders dropped 8.7 percent on month and gained 0.2 percent on year.
The Bank of Japan will on Monday wrap up its monetary policy meeting and then announce its decision on interest rates, highlighting a modest day for Asia-Pacific economic activity.
The BoJ is widely expected to keep its benchmark lending rate unchanged at -0.1 percent, although it may introduce other means of stimulus.
Japan also will see final November numbers for industrial production; the previous reading suggested a decline of 0.9 percent on month and 8.1 percent on year, while capacity utilization also fell 4.5 percent on month.
China will announce January numbers for loan prime rates. The one-year loan prime rate is called at 4.1 percent, down from 4.2 percent in December. The five-year loan prime rate is expected to be unchanged at 4.8 percent.
The central bank in Indonesia will conclude its monetary policy meeting and then announce its decision on interest rates. The bank is expected to keep its benchmark lending rate steady at 5.00 percent.
Hong Kong will see December data for unemployment; in November, the jobless rate was 3.2 percent.
Gold: entering new frontiers postponed, but not canceled
According to Credit Suisse experts, gold has good prospects for growth in 2020.
"Despite the positive sentiment among investors amid rising stock markets, there is still uncertainty over the trade conflict between the US and China. Brexit also brings confusion. The global economy is on the verge. The situation may change in a negative direction at any moment," they said.
Berenberg Bank has adjusted its forecast for the gold exchange rate for 2020 in the direction of its increase.
According to the bank's calculations, the average cost of precious metals this year will be $1,525 per ounce, which is slightly lower than the current level - $ 1,560, but almost 3% higher than the previous forecast of the financial institute ($1,482 per ounce).
Analysts at Berenberg Bank point to the volatile geopolitical situation in the world, which is the main driver of the growth of the gold exchange rate. This includes trade negotiations between the United States and China, Britain's secession from the European Union, as well as tensions between Washington and Tehran.
The bank believes that rising inflation in the United States could create conditions for a further reduction in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, and this, in turn, will support gold.
"Ultimately, inflation in the United States will begin to grow amid an increase in the state budget deficit and the country's trade balance, which can happen very quickly or in ten years. But in any case, it is only a matter of time. If you look at the geopolitical struggle, how many companies want to accumulate dollars? Gold in this case becomes a favorite," Saxo Bank said.
TD Securities experts believe that the price of gold will no longer fall below $1,550 per ounce, even if the military-political conflict between the US and Iran weakens, and investors are again interested in risky assets.
"We expect that in the near future precious metals will be traded in a narrow range. The mark of $1,600 per ounce is also becoming real, as the fundamental drivers remain valid. They will push the cost of precious metals up. The closer the US presidential election, the more expensive gold will become," they said.
According to bank estimates, by the end of this year, an ounce of precious metal will cost $1,650.
The hedge fund Bridgewater Associates predicts that gold will be able to gain a foothold above the level of $1,540 per ounce, and in case of escalation of political conflicts, the cost of precious metal may even exceed $2,000 per ounce.
South Korea's gross domestic product climbed a seasonally adjusted 1.2 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2019, the Bank of Korea said in Wednesday's preliminary reading.
That beat forecasts for an increase of 1.0 percent and accelerated from the 0.4 percent gain in the three months prior.
Real gross domestic income (GDI) increased by 0.5 percent compared to the previous quarter.
On the expenditure side, private consumption was up by 0.7 percent, as expenditures on durable goods (e.g. motor vehicles) and services (e.g. food, recreation and culture) increased.
Government consumption rose by 2.6 percent, with increased expenditures on goods and health care benefits.
Construction investment expanded by 6.3 percent, as building construction and civil engineering increased.
Facilities investment grew by 1.5 percent, led by the growth of investment in machinery (e.g. semiconductor manufacturing equipment).
Exports fell by 0.1 percent, due to a decrease in transportation service despite an increase in machinery. Imports remained the same compared to the previous quarter, owing to decreased expenditure of resident households abroad despite increased imports of motor vehicles.
On the production side, agriculture, forestry and fishing increased by 2.2 percent, mainly due to increased crop yields and fishery production. Manufacturing rose by 1.6 percent, mainly due to an increase in machinery and equipment.
Electricity, gas and water supply rose by 3.9 percent, due to an increase in electricity.
Construction expanded by 4.9 percent, owing to increases in building construction and civil engineering.
Services grew by 0.7 percent, led by wholesale & retail trade, accommodation and food services, and human health and social work.
On a yearly basis, GDP advanced 2.2 percent in Q4, exceeding expectations for 2.0 percent - which would have been unchanged from the previous three months.
For all of 2019, South Korea's GDP was up 2.0 percent on year.
On the expenditure side, while the growth of government consumption expanded, construction and facilities investment contracted as private consumption expenditure and export growth slowed.
On the production side, the growth of manufacturing and services slowed down and construction continued to decline. Real GDI fell by 0.4 percent. As the terms of trade worsened due to factors such as a decrease in semiconductor prices, real GDI fell short of real GDP.
Australia will on Thursday release December data for unemployment, highlighting a busy day in Asia-Pacific economic activity.
The Australian economy is expected to add 11,000 jobs following the addition of 39,900 jobs in November, while the jobless rate is expected to hold steady at 5.2 percent. The participation rate is called unchanged at 66.0 percent.
Australia also will see the inflation forecast for January; in December, the forecast suggest an increase of 4.0 percent on year.
Japan will provide December numbers for import, exports and trade balance. Imports are tipped to slide 2.6 percent on year after plummeting 15.7 percent in November. Exports are called lower by an annual 4.2 percent after sinking 7.9 percent in the previous month. The trade balance is expected to show a deficit of 170.0 billion yen following the 82.1 billion yen shortfall a month earlier.
Japan also will see November numbers for its all industry activity index and for its leading and coincident indexes.
The all industry index is tipped to add 0.4 percent on month after sliding 4.3 percent in October. The previous reading for the leading index was 90.9, while the coincident was at 95.1.
The central bank in Indonesia will wrap up its monetary policy meeting and then announce its decision on interest rates. The bank is widely expected to keep its benchmark lending rate steady at 5.00 percent.
Singapore will provide December figures for consumer prices; in November, inflation was up 0.3 percent on month and 0.6 percent on year.
The U.S. dollar gained against most major currencies on Thursday amid continued optimism about growth in the world's largest economy.
The outbreak of the coronavirus in China and the European Central Bank's decision to hold its key rates and asset purchasing program unchanged supported dollar's rise.
The dollar index started off on a subdued note, but gained in strength and rose to 97.80 in late morning trades before paring some gains subsequently. Still, at 97.67, the index was up 0.15% around late afternoon.
The Euro dropped to $1.1037 after the ECB held its key interest rates, asset purchases and forward guidance unchanged and announced the launch of a review of its monetary policy strategy.
The bank said that risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook remain tilted to the downside.
In her post meeting press conference, Lagarde said, "The review will have to do with how we deliver, how we measure, how we communicate when it comes to decision making, publication, outreach."
"We cannot operate as we did back in 2003, which doesn't mean to say that we have to change this, that and the other, but we have to look comprehensively at the effectiveness of our monetary policy," she added.
The dollar is up by about 0.15% against Pound Sterling, at $1.3123.
The yen was in demand on safe-haven appeal amid mounting worries about the impact of the coronavirus.
The yen, which strengthened to 109.27 a dollar, was trading at 109.47 a dollar late afternoon.
The dollar was up against Swiss franc at 0.9692 and marginally down against the loonie at 1.3127.
Against the Aussie, the dollar was little changed with the pair trading at 1.3127.
In U.S. economic news, data from the Labor Department showed first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits rose to 211,000, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week's revised level of 205,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to climb to 215,000 from the 204,000 originally reported for the previous week.
The Conference Board released a report showing a slightly bigger than expected decrease by its index of leading U.S. economic indicators.
The Conference Board said its leading economic index fell by 0.3% in December after inching up by a revised 0.1% in November.
Economists had expected the leading economic index to dip by 0.2% compared to the unchanged reading originally reported for the previous month.
Traders were also tracking news about the coronavirus outbreak in China that has spread from Wuhan to several Chinese provinces.
According to reports, deaths from the virus rose to 17 on Wednesday, with nearly 600 cases confirmed. Market participants remain worried about the contagion as the week-long Lunar New Year holidays starts on Friday, when millions of Chinese travel domestically and abroad.
The World Health Organization said today that it is still too early to declare the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern has somewhat eased worries about the virus a bit.
"Make no mistake, this is an emergency in China. But it has not yet become a global health emergency," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"At this time, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, but that doesn't mean it won't happen," Tedros said.
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