Date
19 November 2018
BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank is mindful of how its policies affect financial institutions, but it has no plans to raise interest rates for now. Photo: Reuters
BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank is mindful of how its policies affect financial institutions, but it has no plans to raise interest rates for now. Photo: Reuters

BoJ keeps rates steady, trims inflation forecast

The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady and slightly trimmed its inflation forecasts as global trade frictions clouded the economic outlook, suggesting that it is in no rush to trim its massive stimulus, Reuters reports.

But the central bank issued a slightly stronger warning on financial vulnerabilities than it did three months ago, reflecting growing concerns that years of ultra-low rates were hurting bank profits and could discourage them from increasing lending.

“Prolonged downward pressure on financial institutions’ profits from low interest rates … could destabilize the financial system,” the BoJ said on Wednesday in a quarterly report assessing the long-term economic outlook and risks.

“Although these risks are judged as not significant at this point, it’s necessary to pay close attention to future developments,” it said. In the previous report in July, the BoJ only said such risks were not materializing.

BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank will be mindful of how its policies affect financial institutions, as they could start to curb lending if their profits shrink too much.

But he stressed the BoJ has no plans to raise interest rates to give financial institutions a breather, saying the priority is to keep rates very low and help inflation accelerate to its 2 percent target.

“We have absolutely no plan to change our zero percent target for 10-year government bond yields,” he told a news conference.

“There could be times ahead where we would need to consider various steps. But for now, we have no pre-set plans in the works to address market function problems,” Kuroda said.

“The biggest goal of monetary policy is to achieve 2 percent inflation at the earliest. We would take necessary and sufficient steps for this purpose.”

As widely expected, the BOJ maintained a pledge to guide short-term interest rates at minus 0.1 percent and long-term rates around zero percent by a 7-2 vote.

Caught between heightening external risks to growth and the mounting demerits of prolonged easing, the BoJ is set to keep policy steady for some time, analysts say.

“If it weren’t for the trade friction, the BoJ would be looking for ways to normalize policy. Normalization is off the cards for now,” said Hiroshi Miyazaki, senior economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

“There is no need to ease policy, but at the same time the BoJ can’t normalize policy due to worries about trade and the chance the yen will rise.”

In the quarterly report, the central bank cut its core consumer inflation forecast for the current fiscal year ending March 2019 to 0.9 percent from 1.1 percent three months ago.

It also slightly trimmed its price forecasts for the following two years and now projects inflation to hit 1.5 percent in the year ending in March 2021 – short of its 2 percent target.

Adding to headwinds for meeting the BoJ’s price target, a recent batch of weak data suggests Japan’s economy may have peaked.

Japanese factory output fell more than expected in September as a series of typhoons and earthquakes disrupted production, data released earlier on Wednesday showed, reinforcing expectations the economy may have contracted slightly in the third quarter.

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CG

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