With the economy struggling to gather momentum after a contraction last quarter, more than a third of economists see the Bank of Japan expanding monetary stimulus next month, according to a Bloomberg News survey.
Eleven of 35 respondents see the central bank stepping up its easing on Oct. 30, while two forecast a move as early as next week, the survey, conducted Monday through Thursday, shows.
Barclays PLC, Credit Agricole SA and JPMorgan Chase & Co. — which predict the BOJ will hold off until next year — see growing risk of action on Oct. 30. The central bank last expanded asset purchases in October 2014.
Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda is under pressure as the BOJ’s inflation gauge languishes at zero, and declines in production and spending sap a rebound from a contraction last quarter. A slowdown in China, which has sparked turbulence in global markets, also risks hurting exports. The Oct. 30 meeting — when the central bank will release updated projections — will be a “good opportunity” to boost stimulus, says ruling party lawmaker Kozo Yamamoto.
“The China shock has changed the whole picture,” said Hajime Takata at Mizuho Research Institute Ltd., one of the two economists who forecast added easing at the monetary policy meeting on Monday and Tuesday. “Even if it doesn’t move next week, it will have to take action soon. As in the early 2000s and in 2007, it’s always been external shocks that have destroyed Japan’s recovery.”
The domestic picture is also a challenge, with households reluctant to step up spending even amid rising wages, and companies failing to respond fully to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s calls for sustained capital spending increases. Economists have steadily trimmed their forecasts for growth in 2015 as disappointment with Abe’s fiscal policies spreads.
Investors should be aware of the risk of the BOJ conducting “emergency” easing at its meeting on Monday and Tuesday, said Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities economist Naomi Muguruma.
While her main scenario is for the BOJ to add to stimulus on Oct. 30, it is unclear whether the central bank can stay on hold until then, given China’s currency devaluation last month, volatile stock markets and weaker-than-expected economic indicators in Japan, she wrote in a note.
In the previous Bloomberg survey of economists, 12 of 37 predicted expanded easing on Oct. 30, while none forecast action in September. Sixteen said they did not expect the BOJ to add any more stimulus in the future, according to the July 27-Aug. 3 survey, with the number falling to 13 the latest poll.
Kuroda last October increased the asset-purchase program he introduced in April 2013, aiming to drive inflation to 2 percent in about two years.
The BOJ chief said Thursday that recent economic data have been “mixed,” though chances are high that the economy will grow this quarter.
While the central bank projects consumer price gains will pick up to its 2 percent target around the six-month period through September 2016, a change in the BOJ’s inflation outlook may be unavoidable, depending on oil prices, Kuroda said in the Diet.
The BOJ will not reach its price target in that time frame, according to all 34 economists who responded to a question in the survey on that goal.
JPMorgan economist Masaaki Kanno sees economic growth slowing to 0.9 percent in the second half of 2015 from 1.7 percent in the first six months of the year. While he sees January as the most likely timing for a boost in BOJ stimulus, chances of a move on Oct. 30 have risen to as much as 45 percent from as much as 35 percent, he said.
Some BOJ officials see a growing likelihood the central bank will cut its inflation outlook and again delay the time frame for reaching its goal due to the drop in oil prices, people familiar with the discussions have said.
Officials at the same time are placing increasing weight on an alternative inflation gauge that excludes fresh food and energy, which shows consumer prices rising 0.9 percent in July, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private. Any need for further stimulus will be determined by the next few months’ economic data, they said.
Some data have indicated inflation expectations are turning downward. The number of articles mentioning “price rise” in five major Japanese newspapers fell to 248 in August from a peak of 718 in March 2014, indicating companies are finding conditions less conducive to announce price hikes, said Yasunari Ueno, an economist at Mizuho Securities Co.
Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman said the risks of failure for Abe’s so-called Abenomics campaign are growing. Japan needs to reach a point where everyone believes that it has pulled out of deflation, he told a conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.
“I’m still really, really worried,” said Krugman.