Japan maintains QE targets, says economy picking up
by Peter Nielsen, Central Bank News
The Bank of Japan (BOJ) maintained its aim of expanding the monetary base by an annual 60-70 trillion yen, along with purchases of Japanese government bonds and other securities, and voiced confidence that the economy was now picking up speed and consumer prices would start to rise.
The BOJ, which launched its “new phase of monetary easing” in early April, said it would continue with its plan to buy government bonds so their outstanding amount rises by 50 trillion yen a year and the average remaining maturity of these purchases will be about seven years.
In addition, the BOJ will purchases exchange-traded funds worth 1.0 trillion a year, real estate trusts worth some 30 billion yen and commercial paper and corporate bonds until the outstanding amounts reach 2.2 trillion yen and 3.2 trillion yen, respectively, by the end of this year.
The BOJ, which launched its new, massive quantitative easing plan following last year’s election of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the installment of a new central bank governor, sounded upbeat about Japan’s economy, which has been languishing for years and battling deflation for 15 years.
“Japan’s economy has started picking up,” the BOJ said, adding exports had stopped falling as overseas economies were moving out of a deceleration phase and heading toward a pick-up.
The BOJ assessment is more optimistic than in April when it said the economy had stopped weakening and was showing some signs of picking up.
It added that investment by businesses appears to have stopped weakening while public investment has continued to increase and housing investment is picking up. Private consumption is more resilient as consumer sentiment has improved, the BOJ said. It said further:
“Reflecting these developments in demand both at home and abroad, industrial production has stopped decreasing and signs of picking up have become increasingly evident.”
In the first quarter of this year, Japan’s Gross Domestic Product rose by a larger-than-expected 0.9 percent, the highest growth rate in a year, from the fourth quarter. But the trend in growth has yet to really improve with the annual growth rate only 0.2 percent.
In its latest economic outlook, the BOJ forecast growth of 2.9 percent in the current 2013 fiscal year, which began on April 1, up from 1.0 percent in fiscal 2012, as consumers front-load spending ahead of planned tax hikes.
“With regard to the outlook, Japan’s economy is expected to return to a moderate recovery path, mainly against the background that domestic demand remains resilient due to the effects of monetary easing as well as various economic measures and that growth rates of overseas economies gradually pick up,” the BOJ said.
Inflation remains negative and the BOJ said prices should continue to register small declines for the time being and then gradually turn positive. In March consumer prices fell by 0.9 percent, a faster decline than February’s 0.7 percent deflation, the 10th month in a row with a negative inflation rate.
Last month the BOJ forecast that inflation, excluding the effect of planned consumption tax hikes, would hit 1.4 percent is fiscal 2014 and then rise to 1.9 percent in fiscal 2015. In the current fiscal year, inflation is forecast at 0.7 percent.
The BOJ has set an inflation target of 2.0 percent and today it repeated that it would
“continue with quantitative and qualitative monetary easing, aiming to achieve the price stability target of 2 percent, as long as it is necessary for maintaining that target in a stable manner.”
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