• SHARE

The Bank of Japan rejects the idea that additional monetary stimulus is needed to prevent a recent decline in oil prices from pulling down inflation, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

For now, policymakers assess that while cheaper energy costs may weigh on consumer prices for a time, they ultimately will boost the economy, spurring inflation, said the sources, who asked not to be named because the discussions are not public.

Less agreement is found on how much capacity the central bank has to expand its buying of government debt, some of the sources said.

The slide in oil prices to a five-year low this month magnified the challenges to BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda and his colleagues as they try to secure a 2 percent pace for the bank’s main inflation gauge next year. Next spring’s “shunto” wage talks between business and labor leaders will be critical to gauging prospects for consumer prices, the sources said.

“The BOJ is unlikely to add stimulus” in January, said Hiroaki Muto, an economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co. “They will argue that oil prices are going to have positive effects on the economy and that their revision to the inflation outlook is minor.”

Officials want to avoid creating a perception that the BOJ will take action simply when oil prices fall, the sources said, adding the Oct. 31 easing demonstrated the central bank’s commitment to achieving its price target.

On Oct. 31, the bank lowered its inflation forecasts for the fiscal year through March and for the following 12 months. At that meeting, the BOJ Policy Board decided in a 5-4 vote to increase the pace of asset purchases that gives the central bank room to buy from the market every new bond issued by the Finance Ministry.

The world’s third-biggest economy contracted for a second straight quarter in the three months through September, according to data released after the BOJ’s decision, sinking Japan into its fourth recession since 2008.

The BOJ wouldn’t automatically ease even if the outlook was lowered, board member Sayuri Shirai said last month. Shirai, who voted with the majority for further easing in October, said the decline in oil prices would have positive economic effects and that this would drive up prices.

Another board member Takehiro Sato, who voted against further easing in October before supporting a decision to maintain the policy at a subsequent meeting, said this month that lower oil prices would exert downward pressure on prices, although in the longer term they would have positive economic effects.

The BOJ signaled following its Oct. 31 board meeting that it was ready to ease further if needed to support inflation expectations that have been affected by oil prices, said Hideo Kumano, an economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute and a former BOJ official.

“They will have to address any further drop in oil prices with additional easing if they are to keep a consistent stance,” Kumano said.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW