BOJ keeps monetary policy unchanged despite risks to growth

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's central bank opted Tuesday to keep its monetary stance unchanged while monitoring the impact of its recently imposed "negative interest rate policy."

The Bank of Japan ended a two-day policy meeting by saying it was studying risks to growth for the world's third-largest economy and would take further action if need be.

Analysts were divided over whether the Bank of Japan would expand its lavish asset purchases or cut interest rates still further to spur growth.

Japan's economy contracted in the last quarter of 2015 and recent data indicate it might shrink again this quarter, in what would be Japan's third "technical recession," or two straight quarters of contraction, in four years.

The BOJ forecast that exports and industrial output would remain sluggish. It said inflation was likely to stay flat for now but eventually climb to a 2 percent target set three nearly years ago.

The negative interest rate policy introduced last month imposes a 0.1 percent fee on excess bank reserves held by the central bank. It followed similar moves in Europe but is unpopular with financial circles and the public, who are seeing rates paid on their own savings deposits shrink ever closer to zero.

Under the current governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, the BOJ has been buying roughly 80 trillion yen ($700 billion) of government bonds and other assets a year. The injections of cash into the economy are meant to drive prices higher, prompting businesses and consumers to spend more, but demand has remained tepid.

In its assessment, the BOJ noted a slowdown in housing and public investments and recent volatility in global financial markets but said the economy was still in a "moderate recovery."