Cautious Bank of Japan leaves monetary policy unchanged

Haruhiko Kuroda PHOTO:AFP

Japan’s central bank on Tuesday kept its ultra-loose monetary policy in place, tamping down investor expectations of a move towards an exit from crisis-era stimulus in line with the trend in other major economies.

The decision came as inflation remains stubbornly low in Japan, even as the world’s number three economy has enjoyed seven straight quarters of growth.

Governor Haruhiko Kuroda gave few clues about any timeline for pulling back the bank’s huge asset-buying programme, shrugging off market expectations.

Given continuing weak inflation, “we are not in a situation where we can discuss the timing of so-called exit policy”, Kuroda told reporters after the bank’s decision.

The Bank of Japan’s massive monetary easing programme is a cornerstone of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” campaign to kickstart the economy after years of torpid growth.

On Tuesday, the BoJ said it would continue to purchase 10-year government bonds so that long-term interest rates would remain “at around zero percent”.

It will also keep charging a negative interest rate on some accounts held by financial institutions at the BoJ, in a bid to prompt lending by commercial banks.

And it maintained its 2.0-percent inflation target — seen as crucial in the long battle against deflation that has hobbled the once-booming economy.

The dollar rose above 111 yen Tuesday, from 110.92 yen Monday in New York.

In its quarterly report on prices and economic activities, the BoJ again said “risks to prices are skewed to the downside” and “developments in prices continue to warrant careful attention”.

Japan’s core consumer prices — excluding volatile prices for fresh foods — saw a 0.9-percent year-on-year rise in November, but with energy stripped out, they rose just 0.3 percent, according to government data last month.

Investors were also watching for possible indications on whether Kuroda will stay on as he nears the end of his five-year term.

Abe has reportedly asked him to stay, but the governor was coy on the subject, saying he was not in a position to comment on personnel issues.

The BoJ’s caution leaves it out of line with other major central banks.

The European Central Bank said in October it would cut bond-buying by half, to 30 billion euros ($37 billion) per month, while the US Federal Reserve in December raised the benchmark lending rate for the third time in a year.



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