Asia Pacific trading is off to a weak start this morning. Crude oil prices are under pressure again, US share index futures are adding to Friday night’s losses and commodity currencies are lower as forex traders head toward the safety of the Japanese yen and the US dollar. Holidays in China and Japan may limit damage today ahead of important data releases.

Evidence of economic damage continues to pile up. On Friday night both UK and US manufacturing PMIs for April registered in the low to mid-thirties, indicating contraction as containment measures bite. US construction spending in March held up surprisingly well, but the ISM data for April told a different story. It indicated a smaller contraction in manufacturing, but the leading new orders and employment components were weaker. The potential for an economic “snap back” once containment measures are lifted moved further away.

Bonds rallied again, and many major issuers’ ten-year bond yields are edging back to record lows. European and US stock indices shed 2% to 3%, in line with Asia Pacific falls on Friday. Industrial commodities illustrated the weakening sentiment as copper, nickel, tin and zinc dropped 1% to 2%.

Australian building approvals for March are due later this morning. Consensus estimates point to a 15% decline. Hong Kong GDP data is expected to show a 1.8% decline for the quarter, pushing the year on year comparison to -6.5%. Tonight brings manufacturing PMIs for Germany, Italy and France, and UA durable goods and factory orders If the readings are anywhere close to estimates they are unlikely to dispel the current market gloom.

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