Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said Thursday that the coronavirus outbreak is having a “serious impact” on the Japanese economy, and that the global economic outlook remains very unclear.
“The BOJ will take additional easing measures without hesitation if necessary” while closely monitoring developments in the spread of the virus, Kuroda told a teleconference with the bank’s regional branch managers.
The virtual meeting took place against a background of rising infections in major urban areas. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures in an attempt to curb the outbreak.
Kuroda said COVID-19 has weighed on the country’s economy as exports, output and spending declined, as did the number of inbound tourists to Japan.
“The uncertainty over the economic outlook is very high as it remains unclear when the global coronavirus infection will end,” he added.
The BOJ decided last month to expand its asset purchase program in a bid to stabilize financial markets by increasing the buying of exchange-traded funds at an annual pace of ¥12 trillion ($110 billion) from ¥6 trillion.
“Our country’s financial system has been maintaining stability as a whole, but corporate financing has been getting worse,” Kuroda said during Thursday’s teleconference, adding that global financial markets have continued to show signs of “nervousness” despite aggressive actions taken by major central banks.
“The BOJ is committed to securing liquidity for corporate financing and stability in financial markets by introducing new kinds of market operations, and by increased purchases of commercial paper and corporate bonds,” Kuroda said at the meeting.
The central bank released its quarterly Tankan survey last week, showing business sentiment among large manufacturers fell into negative territory in March for the first time in seven years.
The key index, measuring confidence among companies such as automobile and electronics makers, fell to minus 8 from zero in December, the lowest level since March 2013. The index for large nonmanufacturers, including the service sector, dived to 8 from 20.
The central bank was scheduled to release its quarterly Sakura Report on Japan’s regional economies later Thursday.
Japan recorded more than 500 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday — its biggest daily increase since the start of the pandemic — even as a state of emergency took effect, underscoring the difficulty authorities have in trying to contain the outbreak without imposing a sweeping, mandatory lockdown of the population.
Even with less stringent restrictions compared to other countries, analysts polled by Reuters expect Japan to slip into a deep recession this year as the virus outbreak wreaks havoc on business and daily life.
At its policy meeting later this month, the BOJ is likely to make a rare projection that the world’s third-largest economy will shrink this year, sources said.
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