Quarterly earnings at Asian car manufacturers will show the Japanese at their worst after the March 11 earthquake disrupted parts supplies, while South Korean rivals charged ahead with sales gains in major markets.
Production at Japan's top three car makers suffered the biggest impact in their April-June first financial quarter, with falls of about 80 per cent for domestic output at Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co in April, and 49 per cent at Nissan Motor Co.
But with parts supply recovery faster than expected, the market's focus has shifted to what the coming months will look like, especially with many car makers flagging a production ramp-up to make up for the post-quake losses.
Financial markets will be looking at earnings reports starting this week for the timing of any revisions to Japanese manufacturers' full-year earnings forecasts, which appear conservative against consensus projections.
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Attention will also be focused on how Asian car makers are performing in China, the world's largest market, but one where growth is slowing sharply. Major Chinese car makers report later in the earnings season.
"The markets are already focused on production levels from July-September," Tokyo-based Barclays Capital analyst Kei Nihonyanagi said.
"As the focus is shifting to earnings recovery levels from next business year [starting April 2012], it is hard for us to expect negative surprises on April-June earnings."
Toyota and Honda are both expected to swing to an operating loss in the latest quarter, while Nissan is seen shining with a profit of 70 billion yen (Dh3.29 billion), though that is down 58 per cent from the previous year.
Supply chain recovery
While a complete recovery in the broken supply chain is now expected before October, Japanese brands face widening currency losses as the dollar sinks to a near four-month low of 78.13 yen. Nissan and Honda have assumed a dollar of 80 yen in the year to March 2012, while Toyota expects 82 yen.
Currency woes could also deepen for South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp with many investors saying the advancing South Korean won has more room to gain in the coming months.
Hyundai and Kia, which together ranked fifth in global sales last year, are set to post strong quarterly results thanks to brisk sales in the United States. The challenge from here is managing investors' expectations as the won firms and Japanese rivals raise production levels, analysts said.
"Hyundai and Kia's global market shares are seen rising sharply in the second quarter. It appears that Hyundai and Kia have benefited somewhat from Japan's crisis," Ahn Sang-jun, an analyst at Tong Yang Securities, said.
"Hyundai will be more affected by Japan's recovery than Kia as the former has more competing models with Japanese car makers in the United States," he added.
New model launches such as the Toyota Camry expected this autumn also promises stiffer competition in the United States for Hyundai, which has no new model planned in that market in the second half.
Eyes are also on whether Hyundai Motor will nab an annual wage deal to avoid a strike for a third consecutive year.
On Friday, Kia and its union clinched a wage deal for 2011 including generous bonus payments, signalling improving labour relations at a company once notorious for its militant union.