The Bank of Japan left its massive monetary stimulus program unchanged even as it trimmed its inflation forecasts, signaling further divergence ahead from its global peers.
Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda and the Policy Board voted Tuesday to maintain the central bank’s yield curve control program and asset purchases, a result predicted by all 43 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The vote was 8-1, with new board member Goshi Kataoka dissenting.
The BOJ is under little pressure to take additional action even though inflation is well below its 2 percent target. The economy is on track for its longest expansion in 16 years, stocks are at the highest level in two decades and the labor market is the tightest in a generation.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent election win has raised expectations that the BOJ’s current policy stance will continue, making any turn toward the exit even trickier, according to former Policy Board member Sayuri Shirai.
“The BOJ is going to continue to sit tight for a while,” said Hiroshi Shiraishi, a senior economist at BNP Paribas SA, before the decision. “From economic growth to stocks and the yen, they are all performing in favor of the BOJ.”
The nine-member board maintained its view that its 2 percent target is likely to be met around the fiscal year that starts in April 2019. The BOJ’s key inflation gauge, which strips out fresh food, rose 0.7 percent in September, a government report showed last week.
The bank doesn’t see the need to expand its stimulus because it has concluded that the improving output gap and tightening labor market will continue to push inflation higher over the longer term, sources familiar with the matter said.
Kuroda has stressed the importance of continuing monetary easing even as the BOJ lags behind its counterparts in turning toward policy normalization. The European Central Bank unveiled a plan to reduce bond purchases last week and investors see more than an 80 percent chance of another rate hike by the Federal Reserve in December.
Kataoka, a reflationist who joined the board in July, said at Tuesday’s meeting that it’s appropriate for the BOJ to buy Japanese government bonds so that the 15-year yield would remain at less than 0.2 percent.
He also dissented from the inflation overshooting commitment, saying if there was a delay in reaching the price target due to domestic factors, the BOJ should take additional easing.
Kataoka is unlikely to shift the BOJ’s course, according to economists, including Nobuyasu Atago, chief economist at Okasan Securities Co. and a former BOJ official.
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