Picture: JSE
Picture: JSE

A contraction in Japan’s first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) set a gloomy tone for Asian stock markets on Wednesday morning.

Japan’s March-quarter GDP fell 0.2% from the December quarter. The last time Japan reported a quarterly contraction in economic growth was in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index was down 0.22% ahead of the JSE’s opening.

Naspers’s 31%-owned Hong Kong-listed associate, Tencent, which is scheduled to release quarter results on Wednesday, was down 0.45% at H$396.20.

The rand was trading at R12.56 to the dollar, R14.86 to the euro and R16.97 to the pound at 6.45am.

Taxi financier Transaction Capital said in a trading statement on May 10 that it expected to report on Wednesday basic and headline earnings per share grew by between 26% and 30%.

Statistics SA is scheduled to release March’s retail sales figures at 1pm.

March’s retail sales are likely to have been boosted by consumers shopping ahead of April’s value-added tax (VAT) increase, to 15% from 14%, along with other tax increases.

Investec Bank economist Lara Hodes forecast annual retail sales growth would accelerate to about 5.1% in March from February’s 4.9%.

"Consumer activity and, by extension, growth in retail sales would have been supported by an improved inflationary environment, assisted primarily by lower food prices and fuel costs in March," Hodes wrote in her weekly note e-mailed on Friday.

A better environment for retailers was predicted by the Bureau of Economic Research’s survey for the first quarter of 2018.