The Bank of Japan has probably finished buying exchange-traded funds this year, according to Amundi Japan Ltd., signaling the removal of a key support for the nation’s equities amid a global selloff.
The central bank didn’t add to ETF holdings Wednesday even as the Topix index tumbled 2 percent for its largest drop since Nov. 17. The BOJ is about ¥26.6 billion short of its ¥3.8 trillion forecast for the end of 2014, while it has been recently buying in blocks of ¥37.4 billion. As another purchase of that size would put it above its target, the bank is likely to refrain from further investments in 2014, according to Akio Yoshino, chief economist at Amundi Japan.
“The BOJ has been buying the same amount of ETFs each time to dispel views that it’s acting arbitrarily and to curtail impact on the market,” Yoshino said by phone from Tokyo Thursday. “I’d say it didn’t buy yesterday because it’s pretty much reached the ¥3.8 trillion level.”
Investors are watching for support by the central bank as the Topix slides amid declines in global stocks sparked by a tightening of lending requirements in China and renewed concerns about Greece’s economy. Wednesday was the second time this week that the BOJ surprised analysts, after it bought ETFs amid a stock rally for the first time on Monday.
Apart from Monday, all of the BOJ’s purchases have been on days the Topix index fell in the morning session, according to Tokai Tokyo Securities Co.
The central bank has ¥3.77 trillion in ETFs on its balance sheet, according to its own data compiled by Bloomberg Thursday. The BOJ said on Oct. 31, when it pledged to triple annual purchases of the funds, that it expected to hold ¥3.8 trillion in the assets at the end of the year.
“Many investors were buying just because the BOJ was, so when the bank passed on purchases yesterday, that was quite a negative surprise,” said Soichiro Monji, chief strategist at Tokyo-based Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. “I think it was one of the reasons stocks extended declines.”
The Topix fell 0.7 percent at the close in Tokyo Thursday, capping its biggest three-day drop since Oct. 16.
An official in the media department of the BOJ declined to comment.
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