Finance ministers from across Asia agreed to set up a $120 billion emergency fund to be launched by the end of the year to enhance Asian countries' ability to counter the global financial meltdown, guaranteeing the safety of their foreign reserve and attracting overseas investment with a more secure capital environment.

At the Asian Development Bank's annual meeting in Indonesia's resort island of Bali over the weekend, Asia's biggest economy Japan as well as China agreed to contribute $38.4 billion each to the region's planned foreign-exchange reserve fund known as the Chiang Mai Initiative. The rest is to come from South Korea and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Monday, the ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said the Asia-Pacific region must rebalance growth. To maintain growth over the long term, Asia will need to rebalance growth, placing more emphasis on domestic demand and consumption, he said.

From a record growth of 9.5% in 2007, the region's aggregate growth is forecast to fall to 3.4% this year. In the opening session of the 42nd Annual Meeting in Bali, Kuroda said, With strong national and regional efforts, and a mild recovery expected in the global economy next year, developing Asia should bounce back to 6% growth in 2010.

Indicating an expansion in China's manufacturing sector, the CLSA Purchasing Managers Index, or PMI, rose in April for the first time in nine months. Reports said citing CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets that the PMI rose to 50.1 in April from 44.8 in the prior month. A reading above 50 suggests expansion in the manufacturing activity.

Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department announced that the retail sales value dropped 7.7% year-on-year to HK$ 20.8 billion in March, compared to a 12.7% fall in the previous month, revised from 12.6% drop reported initially. Economists had predicted a decline of 5.2%. In January, retail sales value was up 7.4%.

Meanwhile, the volume of retail sales declined 9.3% annually in March, after falling 13.9% in February, revised from 13.8% estimated initially. For the first three months of the year, retail sales value decreased 3.9% compared to the same period of the previous year. During the period, the volume of retail sales dipped 5.5%.

Macau's Statistics and Census Service or DSEC announced that the jobless rate stood at 3.8% in the January to March period, up from 3.6% in the December to February period.

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