Business / Economy

Bank of Japan's Yukitoshi Funo warns of growing global risks but says BOJ ready to respond

Reuters

Bank of Japan board member Yukitoshi Funo on Thursday warned against intensifying economic pressure from slowing global growth and reiterated the central bank’s readiness to respond to the broadening hazards.

Funo — who has consistently voted with the majority of the nine-member board — repeated the BOJ’s view in July that it would act “without hesitation” if risks to achieving its 2 percent inflation target grew.

Market expectations of imminent easing grew after the BOJ pledged in July to act preemptively.

“For additional easing measures, various possibilities exist such as cutting short-term and long-term interest rates, boosting asset purchases and accelerating base money expansion,” Funo said in a speech to business leaders in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

At its latest policy review last month, the central bank stood pat but signaled the chance of expanding stimulus as early as its next policy meeting in October by issuing a stronger warning against overseas risks.

“We are facing a situation where we need to pay more attention than before to the risk that the momentum toward the price stability target will be undermined,” Funo said.

“With that situation in mind, we will reexamine economic and price trends at the next policy setting meeting,” he added.

A former executive of Toyota Motor Corp., Funo flagged rising risks from overseas, such as U.S. economic policy and its impact on global markets, the Sino-U.S. trade war, Brexit, and geopolitical risks.

“In particular, protectionist moves are fueling uncertainty,” Funo said.

“As the global economy remains unstable, attention must be paid to these risks and their effects on Japanese business and households’ sentiment.”

Under a policy dubbed yield curve control, the BOJ pledges to guide short-term rates at — 0.1 percent and the 10-year bond yield around 0 percent. It also buys risky assets to achieve its elusive 2 percent inflation target.

Sources say the BOJ will stick to its playbook of minor tweaks and verbal warnings to rein in sharp falls in long-term interest rates, raising questions about its ability to control the yield curve while managing market expectations.

The BOJ has said it has four tools to ease, namely lowering the long-term bond yield target, increasing asset purchases, accelerating base money printing and deepening negative rates. Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda has made clear the central bank won’t rule out any of the options, including deepening negative rates, if it were to ease again.

However, with interest rates already near zero, many analysts say the central bank is in a bind given it has little ammunition to battle the next recession.