Business / Economy

Dissenting voice on BOJ board calls for preemptive monetary easing

Reuters

A Bank of Japan board member on Wednesday advocated a pre-emptive further easing in monetary policy, warning that the need for additional stimulus is growing as the pain from the U.S.-China trade war on the export-reliant economy broadens.

But Goushi Kataoka, a vocal supporter of aggressive easing, offered few clues on whether he will propose loosening policy at this month’s rate review, saying he will take into account not just the benefits but the cost of additional easing.

“Personally, I feel the need for additional easing is heightening. On the other hand, many central banks are ramping up stimulus, which could affect the global economy,” Kataoka told reporters after meeting business leaders in Hakodate, Hokkaido.

“I’d like to take these points into account in deciding what the BOJ needs to do at its September meeting,” he said. “If we were to ease again, we must scrutinize the benefits and the costs of doing so.”

With the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank thought likely to increase stimulus this month, markets are rife with speculation the BOJ will be forced to ease too, as failing to act could trigger an unwelcome rise in the yen against other currencies.

Nodding to darkening global growth prospects, BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda has said the central bank will ease “without hesitation” to prevent risks from derailing Japan’s recovery.

But the central bank’s board is split between those such as Kataoka, who are keen to ramp up stimulus, and those more wary of the rising cost of prolonged easing such as the strain on financial institutions.

Under a policy dubbed yield curve control, the BOJ guides short-term interest rates at minus 0.1 percent and the 10-year government bond yield around 0 percent.

A footnote to the text of Kataoka’s speech said cutting the short-term rate target would help change the shape of the yield curve to a more accommodative one. He did not elaborate on how this could happen.

“At present, there is a gap between our inflation target and actual price moves. As such, it’s necessary to strengthen monetary easing,” Kataoka said.

Kataoka — one of the two on the nine-member board who recently dissented when the BOJ kept rate targets steady — said global economic risks were already materializing and hurting Japan’s recovery prospects.

He also said inflation was unlikely to accelerate toward the BOJ’s 2 percent target, countering the view of Kuroda that the economy was sustaining momentum to hit the price goal.

“When there is a distance between our price target and actual inflation, it’s important to respond preemptively instead of waiting until we confirm that the price trend has changed,” he said in his speech in Hakodate.

Kataoka called for deepening negative rates at a rate review in July but did not put the proposal to a vote.

Asked whether he will put the proposal to a vote at this month’s rate review, he said, “I’d like to decide by looking at various factors, including the side-effects and the risks.”

Given the BOJ’s dwindling policy ammunition, there’s uncertainty on how quickly it could act. But Kataoka’s calls for preemptive action underscores growing alarm within the BOJ over the damage the trade war and slowing global demand are inflicting on the world’s third-largest economy.

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