Most bellwether indices in key Asian markets, including the local bourse, ended the week on a high note, although the late recovery was insufficient to wipe out cumulative losses from the earlier part of the week.
Following an unexpected drop in US retail sales for April and higher home foreclosure numbers earlier in the week, the latest US Labor Department data showed a bigger than expected jump in new claims for unemployment benefits. These numbers have put a dampener on rising expectations of an imminent recovery for the world’s largest economy.
Elsewhere, Japan’s machinery orders turned lower again, falling 1.3% in March, after an encouraging rise in the month of February. The data suggests that companies remain cautious on spending. Indeed, big global companies, such as Sony, Toyota and Nike, have announced a rash of plans to weather the demand slump – including shuttering plants, cutting jobs and restructuring operations. Thus, unemployment figures around the world are likely to inch higher in the coming months, which would, in turn, weigh on any recovery in consumer spending.
Upcoming economic data will probably continue to be mixed, suggesting a patchy recovery, at best. For the moment though, investors appear happy to focus on the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
The KL Composite Index was in the black throughout the day and closed 2.2 points higher at 1,014.2. Notable gainers for the day include Shell, BCHB and Tenaga.