Friday, Japan's core consumer price index, or CPI, marked first annual decline in 18 months, while South Korean consumer prices climbed at the slowest pace in 14 months in April on easing oil prices. Inflation was in a negative territory in Thailand, but slowed in Indonesia.

Japanese core inflation eased 0.1% on-year in March, the first annual decline since September 2007, the Cabinet Office said. Analysts had been expecting a 0.2% following a flat performance in April. Overall national inflation was down 0.3% on-year, in line with forecasts following a 0.1% annual decline in February. CPI minus fresh food and energy also eased an annual 0.3% - slightly worse than predictions for a 0.2% decline after a 0.1%fall in the previous month.

Also on Friday, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate surged to 4.8% in March from 4.4% recorded in February. The increase was the biggest since 1967. The job-to-applicant ratio fell to 0.52 - worse than expectations for a ratio of 0.55 after posting a 0.59 in February. The ministry also said Japan's labor cash earnings fell 3.7% year-on-year in March.

All-household spending was down 0.4% year-on-year, while wage-earner household spending was up 0.7% and the propensity to consume came in at 94.1 - up 3.7 points on year.

Elsewhere, the Japan Automobile Dealers' Association said domestic automobile sales dropped 28.6% year-on-year in April to 166,365 units from 232,993 units a year earlier.

South Korea's National Statistical Office said annual inflation came in at 3.6% in April, slowing from 3.9% in the previous month. Core inflation that excludes food and energy eased to 4.2% from 4.5% in March. Thus, core annual inflation reached the lowest since May 2008, when it stood at 3.9%. Month-on-month, the consumer price index was up 0.3% in April compared to a 0.7% rise in March.

Signaling a possible end to the current downturn, South Korea's trade surplus increased further to a record high. A report from the Ministry of Knowledge Economy showed that the nation registered a record surplus of US$6.02 billion in April, despite the ongoing downturn in overseas shipment. The surplus stood at US$4.29 billion in March.

China's Purchasing Managers' Index or PMI for the manufacturing sector increased to a seasonally adjusted 53.5 in April from 52.4 in March, the Federation of Logistics and Purchasing reportedly said.

India's exports fell 33.3% in March from the previous year, following a 21.7% drop in February, the country's Ministry of Commerce and Industry said. At the same time, imports slipped 34% annually.

Thailand's Commerce Ministry said consumer prices fell 0.9% year-on-year in April, following a 0.2% decline in March. Economists were expecting prices to drop 1.2% in April.

Indonesia's consumer price annual inflation eased to 7.31% in April from 7.92% recorded in March, the statistical office said.

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