RTTNews - Thursday saw some key statistical data releases from major Asian economies. Retail sales in Japan fell for an eighth month in April, while South Korea's current account surplus narrowed in the same month. Philippines' economic growth slowed in the first quarter and the country's central bank lowered its key rates. Elsewhere, the Malaysian government cut its economic outlook.

Japanese retail sales dropped 2.9% on-year in April, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. Sales declined for the eighth consecutive month. However, it was better than analyst expectations for a 3.3% annual decline following the revised 3.8% fall in March.

The country's Ministry of Finance said foreign residents became net purchasers of Japan stocks last week, but remained net sellers of Japan bonds and notes.

South Korea saw a current account surplus of $4.28 billion in April, the Bank of Korea said in a preliminary report, down from a record $6.65 billion surplus in March.

The Philippines' GDP growth slowed significantly in the first quarter, weighed down by the impact of the U.S financial meltdown and the global economic crisis, along with record falls in manufacturing and trade. Data released by the National Statistical Coordination Board showed that the GDP growth eased to just 0.4% annually in the first quarter from 3.9% in the year-ago period.

After a few hours, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas lowered its interest rate on overnight borrowing or reverse repurchase facility to 4.25% from 4.50% with immediate effect. That was the lowest level since May 1992. At the same time, the bank lowered overnight lending rate or repurchase rate to 6.25% from 6.50%.

The Malaysian economy is set to contract as much as 5% in 2009, Prime Minister Najib Razak said. The economy is now expected to shrink in the range of 4% to 5% this year. This is much severe than its earlier estimate, when the government forecast the economy to grow 1% or by a worse 1% decline. If GDP falls by 5% this year, it would be the largest decrease since the Asian financial crisis in 1998. However, the economy is expected to be better in the second half of this year and to turn positive on the fourth quarter, he told reporters.

India's inflation rose 0.61% for the week ended May 16, marking the same pace as in the previous week, according to the country's Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Economists were looking for an increase of 0.69%.

Elsewhere, Moody's Investors Service said the ratings outlook for the Indian government's Baa3 foreign currency rating and Ba2 local currency rating remained stable. But, the nation faces various challenges in the areas of macroeconomic management and a backlog of structural reforms, the rating agency noted.

Tourist arrivals into Singapore fell 6.1% year-on-year in April, after recording double-digit declines in the past three months, the country's Tourism Board said. Tourist arrivals totaled 780,000 in April.

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