The Bank of Japan on Tuesday refrained from boosting stimulus even after the economy shrank in the last quarter, betting that a resumption in growth will be enough to rekindle inflation.
The move by Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda and his colleagues leaves the onus on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to compile a stimulus package to boost what evidence indicates is a lackluster recovery in the second half of the year so far.
The focus now turns to whether Kuroda will make any hints about his willingness to do more to head off risks from weak consumer spending and production at home to a slowdown in China. With the BOJ’s inflation gauge at zero, some officials at the bank see a growing chance of another delay in reaching their 2 percent price target.
Economists from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. are among those who project a boost in stimulus on Oct. 30.
“The BOJ is under increasing pressure,” Masaaki Kanno, a JPMorgan economist and a former official at the central bank, said before the decision. “It’s becoming a matter of when, not if, the BOJ will ease further.”
The central bank will keep increasing the monetary base at an annual pace of ¥80 trillion, it said in a statement Tuesday, as forecast by 33 of 35 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The other two predicted a boost.
The yen has weakened more than 9 percent since the BOJ last expanded on its program in October last year while the stock gauge has gained 16 percent.
Production, household spending and orders for machinery — a leading indicator of capital spending — all unexpectedly fell in July, highlighting weakness after the gross domestic product contracted last quarter.
While Kuroda has signaled the possibility that the BOJ may lower its inflation outlook due to a drop in oil prices, he said last week the economy is likely to grow this quarter and maintained the view that inflation will accelerate to the 2 percent goal around the six months through September 2016.
He pointed to a tightening labor market, high corporate profits and changing views among business and consumers.
By some measures, the BOJ is making headway on inflation.
A gauge that strips out fresh food and energy showed consumer prices rising 0.9 percent in July after gains of 0.7 percent in the prior two months, according to people familiar with the discussions who asked not to be named.
Still, no economist in the Bloomberg survey sees price gains reaching the target in the BOJ’s current time frame. When Kuroda launched the asset-purchase program in April 2013, he said inflation would reach the target in around two years. He pushed back the timing in April this year as declines in energy prices dragged down inflation.
Eleven economists in the poll predicted the expansion of stimulus on Oct. 30, when the BOJ releases its economic and inflation outlook. That meeting will be a “good opportunity” to add stimulus, ruling party lawmaker Kozo Yamamoto said in an interview last week.
He said the BOJ should expand its easing plan by at least ¥10 trillion.
The central bank has been buying government bonds and assets linked to stocks and real estate to pump cash into the economy. With the BOJ having purchased 79 percent of the targeted amount of exchange traded funds for this year, it may need to add to its firepower.
“They’ve only got a little bit left in their quota,” Seiji Arai, a strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, said before Tuesday’s decision. “I think they’ll vow to increase yearly purchases by ¥1 (trillion) or ¥2 trillion in October.”