Bank of Japan holds off on stimulus

Tokyo - The Bank of Japan on Friday held fire on expanding its vast stimulus programme, saying the world's number three economy continued to recover, even as the country's export picture worsened.

The decision was widely expected and investors would now turn their focus to a regular post-meeting press briefing from BoJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda around 3:30 pm local time (08:30 SA time).

People walk out from the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo. Credit: REUTERS

Policymakers issued their unanimous decision as questions grow about whether they would launch further monetary easing measures after Tokyo hiked sales taxes in April, dragging on growth as consumer spending took a hit.

Kuroda, however, has said the impact of the levy hike has not as bad as expected.

He has pledged to take further action if necessary, after the bank last year launched unprecedented measures as part of a wider bit to stimulate the long laggard economy.

On Friday, the BoJ statement pointed to a decline in exports and said factory output “has shown some weakness”, while the jobs and wage growth was “improving steadily”.

“Japan's economy has continued to recover moderately as a trend, although the subsequent decline in demand following the front-loaded increase prior to the consumption tax hike has been observed,” it said, a repeat of what it said at last month's meeting.

The yen hardly moved on the BoJ's announcement, with the dollar fetching 101.79 yen right after the announcement, compared with 101.82 shortly before it in Thursday Tokyo trade.

Many economists still believe the BoJ will expand its monetary base this year.

“The BoJ's upbeat outlook suggests that it has become rather unlikely that a more aggressive stance will be announced in October,” Capital Economics said in a statement.

“However, this doesn't mean that a more aggressive policy stance is off the table,” it continued.

“Board members expect inflation excluding tax to remain around 1.25 percent until the middle of the current fiscal year, and pick up towards year-end,”

“In contrast, we expect underlying inflation to moderate towards 1 percent by year-end, and to fall short of the BoJ's expectations over the next two years,” it said.

“If we are right, policymakers may still conclude that an increase in the pace of purchases is needed,” it said. - Sapa-AFP