A majority of economists expect the Bank of Japan to extend special funding measures this week as a spike in virus cases adds risk to the economy’s fragile recovery.
Some 66% of 38 economists surveyed by Bloomberg see the BOJ extending its programs to help pandemic-hit businesses beyond March at a two-day policy meeting ending Friday. The move is viewed by a minority of analysts as a form of monetary easing.
All but one economist projected the BOJ will make no change to its interest rates, forward guidance or key asset-purchase program.
With the virus spreading at record pace at home and abroad, most BOJ watchers have expected the bank to push back the expiration of its crisis-fighting measures. The question was when.
By choosing to act this month, rather than waiting until January, the BOJ would demonstrate policy coordination with the government, people familiar with the matter said.
“The BOJ will be emphasizing policy coordination with the government with the extended program,” Masamichi Adachi, chief Japan economist at UBS Securities, wrote in the survey, adding that he expects the bank to hold the measures in place through September.
The program, first launched in March and extended once already, consists of increased purchases of commercial paper and corporate bonds with a ceiling on holdings of about ¥20 trillion, and about ¥120 trillion in funding operations to support bank lending to companies.
Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at Sony Financial Holdings, said there’s a risk the yen could appreciate after the BOJ meeting if investors see extending the time frame of the special measures as less bold than actions by other major central banks.
The European Central Bank is likely to ramp up stimulus Thursday. The Federal Reserve could announce changes to its bond-buying guidance Wednesday.
While the currency is still viewed as a key trigger for the BOJ to add stimulus, analysts see the bank as more tolerant of yen strength than before. Survey respondents said the yen would need to rise to 95 against the dollar to push the bank to cut its negative interest rate, compared with 100 in a January poll. The yen was trading at around 104 against the greenback Monday.
Asked to evaluate an unprecedented move last month by the BOJ to encourage regional banks to improve profitability, 54% of respondents said the new measure has no impact on monetary policy. Some 22% said it would make it easier to deepen negative rates, while 24% said it made cuts more unlikely.
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