Tokyo - The Bank of Japan on Friday held off fresh monetary easing measures despite fears about the impact of a sales tax hike on the country's economic recovery and a Washington budget crisis that could see a US default.
After a two-day policy meeting, BoJ officials issued an upbeat statement that said the economy was still “recovering moderately” while overseas economies were “heading toward a pick-up”.
But policymakers also warned of risks on the horizon.
The bank had been widely expected to hold fire on as it studies how its unprecedented monetary easing plan, which pumps huge amounts of money into the financial system, was rippling through the world's number-three economy.
The meeting came just days after the BoJ published its Tankan survey, which showed business confidence in Japan had soared to a more than five-year high in the past three months - good news for Prime Shinzo Abe's bid to revitalise the economy.
The closely watched indicator was seen as key to Abe's decision this week to press on with a plan to hike sales taxes to 8.0 percent, from 5.0 percent, in April.
The rise is viewed as crucial for Japan to shrink what is the rich world's heaviest public debt burden.
But some fear it will derail the premier's economic policy blitz, dubbed Abenomics, which has sharply weakened the yen and boosted profits at major exporters such as Toyota and Sony.
Japan's long-suffering economy is growing at a 3.8 percent annualised rate - outpacing other G7 nations - thanks to government stimulus spending and central bank monetary easing of up to 70 trillion yen ($720 billion) a year.
But there are growing concerns about a budgetary stand-off in Washington that economists fear could extend into the middle of the month, when the US runs out of cash to service its debts.
If the country's borrowing limit is not raised before an October 17 deadline the country will default, sending shockwaves through the global economy.
BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda will hold a news briefing at 3:30 pm (08:30 SA time), where analysts will be looking for hints about future stimulus measures and its possible measures to deal with the US crisis.
Kuroda has previously said Japan could likely withstand any hit to consumer demand from raising taxes, but the effect of any US debt default is raising concerns internationally.
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, who applauded Japan's sales tax hike, warned Thursday that US lawmakers' failure to raise the debt ceiling could wreak havoc on the global economy.
“The government shutdown is bad enough, but failure to raise the debt ceiling would be far worse, and could very seriously damage not only the US economy, but the entire global economy,” she said.
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso echoed those concerns Friday, urging Washington to reach an agreement before the damage spreads well beyond US borders.
“My feeling is... the debt limit will have an internationally significant impact. Unless it is resolved swiftly, we will see various consequences,” Aso told reporters in Tokyo.
The BoJ's decision Friday now puts the focus back the US Federal Reserve and the timeline for a widely expected plan to start tapering its monetary easing scheme.
“The chances of the US starting (to wind down its stimulus) this year continue to dwindle,” National Australia Bank (NAB) said in a note.
“There are only two more (Fed policy) meetings this year, and with October 30 now improbable, a lot would have to go right in the US economy over the next two months for the Fed to start tapering (at its following meeting on) December 18.”
On currency markets the dollar fell to 97.17 yen in afternoon trade, compared with 97.27 yen in New York on Thursday. - Sapa-AFP