Philippines wins another upgrade.
Benigno Aquino's good governance campaign in the Philippines won a credit rating upgrade from Standard & Poor's a year after the agency raised the nation to investment grade. While the president's efforts to improve the economy are gaining traction, and the world's attention, much remains to be done to reduce unemployment and poverty. Aquino needs to accelerate the process of cementing his anti-corruption reforms to ensure they outlive his administration, which ends in 2016. For now, though, credit where it's due. As S&P said: "We believe the resulting gains in government revenue generation, spending efficiency, and the improvements in public debt profile and investment environment will at least be preserved in the medium term."
Is Macau's run of good luck over?
Punters don't often beat the house -- that is, unless you're talking about Macau's economy. One of the world's biggest leveraged bets on the casino business has suddenly hit a bit of bad luck. A steady flow of mainland tourists fueled a decade-long boom in Macau gambling revenue to levels eight times that of the Las Vegas Strip. Now, speculation is that Beijing plans to crack down on fund transfers and tighten visa rules. After rallying an average 217 percent in the last two years, shares of the six-biggest listed Macau casino operators have tumbled 20 percent in 2014 through yesterday. That's bad news for Vegas gaming magnates who thought they couldn't lose in the former Portuguese city, not to mention Macau's economy.
Kuroda's BOJ still has some selling to do.
The Bank of Japan's 2 percent inflation target is looking more elusive with each passing month. Surveys by news organizations, including Bloomberg, show the massive monetary stimulus unleashed by Governor Haruhiko Kuroda 13 months ago isn't convincing economists that sustained consumer price gains are on the way. It's widely expected that the BOJ will need to expand its balance sheet further in the months ahead, something that has stock analysts predicting a fresh Nikkei stock average rally. Yet without structural reforms by the government that prod companies to increase salaries, a short-lived jump in asset prices is all Kuroda will have to show for his efforts.
Is China headed for deflation?
The world's second-biggest economy isn't yet experiencing Japan-like deflation, but disinflation certainly seems to be stirring. China's consumer price index grew just 1.8 percent from a year earlier in April, an 18-month low. The trend illustrates how the central bank's efforts to rein in liquidity are hitting domestic demand, which has to worry Xi Jinping. While the Chinese president claims his government is ready to accept less growth, it's doubtful he'd let things slip very far below today's 7.4 percent pace. That probably means a fresh bout of stimulus, regardless of Beijing's pledges to the contrary.
Inflation stalks India's Rajan at every turn.
In India, meanwhile, central bank Governor Raghuram Rajan's problem is runaway inflation. A below-average monsoon season is the latest force fueling concerns that inflation will quicken, limiting room for interest-rate cuts to revive the economy. Consumer-price gains in Asia’s third-largest economy probably quickened for a second month in April to about 8.5 percent. Complicating things further, this is an election year. While the national contest ends next week, expect India's new government to put the screws on Rajan to loosen monetary policy to support growth.
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