BOJ keeps lax monetary policy, forecasts steady growth

Apr 28, 2017, 01:00
BOJ keeps lax monetary policy, forecasts steady growth

The Bank of Japan left unchanged its ultraeasy monetary policy Thursday, saying inflation is lagging behind an earlier forecast, though it offered a more upbeat tone on the economy. The central bank adjusted its inflation forecast for this year to 1.4 percent from an earlier forecast of 1.5 percent.

"It's likely that the timing of exceeding two percent inflation in a stable manner will be later than" March 2019, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters Thursday.

"Discussing an exit strategy in detail at this time would bring turmoil to financial markets", he said. "The prerequisite for such debate to happen is for inflation to achieve 2 percent".

In line with market expectations, the BOJ maintained its short-term interest rate target at minus 0.1 percent and committed to keeping the 10-year government debt yield at around zero percent.

"Japan's economy has been turning toward a moderate expansion", the BOJ said a quarterly review of its long-term economic and price projections.

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In its quarterly outlook report, the BOJ forecast consumer price gains of 1.4 percent this fiscal year, a cut from a previous estimate of 1.5 percent, and noted that inflation expectations are now weakening.

The decision to maintain rates and asset purchases at current levels, with inflation still around zero, underscores the BOJ's struggle to eradicate the deflationary mindset that has plagued the country for decades. "The divergence between their price outlook and that of private economists continues, but it shouldn't be a big problem for now because it's been that way for a long time and few economists believe the BOJ's projections". "Japan's labor market is tight, but retailers still want to cut prices", said Shuji Tonouchi, senior market economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. Domestic consumer prices have slowly improved in recent months, with core inflation rising 0.2% in February. While a pioneer in deploying unorthodox stimulus, the BOJ is likely to lag behind its peers in withdrawing monetary support.

But it warned of risks to that scenario from global trends, including US economic policies, Britain's exit from the European Union and other geopolitical trends.

Most economists also expect the European Central Bank to stand pat, but after what markets viewed as a positive result in the first round of voting in France, pressure is rising for more discussion about the possibility of tightening monetary policy.

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