Updated: Thu, 31 Oct 2013 05:29:53 GMT | By Agence France-Presse

Bank of Japan holds off fresh monetary easing measures

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) on Thursday held off launching fresh easing measures as the economy shows increasing signs that a government-backed policy blitz aimed at reviving growth is gaining traction.

The brief central bank statement on its asset-buying scheme comes as attention turns to the release of its semi-annual economic outlook later in the day.

With data indicating the world's number three economy slowly picking up BoJ policymakers had been expected to hold fire as they study the effects of the unprecedented pump-priming that has seen billions of dollars flood financial markets.

However, bank governor Haruhiko Kuroda said earlier this month that he was ready to pull the trigger on fresh policy moves if the economy heads south. Kuroda is due to hold a press briefing later Thursday.

The vast easing measures announced in April were part of a wider drive fronted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aimed at ending years of deflation and anaemic growth.

And recent figures suggest the policy is working. The bank's quarterly Tankan survey this month showed showed business confidence in Japan had soared to a more than five-year high, while economic growth has easily outpaced expansion in other G7 nations so far this year.

Tokyo has also hailed recent consumer price data as showing it is succeeding in its battle to achieve 2.0 percent inflation within two years.

Thursday's announcement came a day after the US Federal Reserve said it would stand pat on its own bond-buying stimulus programme as the economy shows signs of picking up. However, there was speculation it could begin winding down as early as December after the bank gave a better-than-expected outlook.

"In contrast to the US Fed, the question is whether the Japanese central bank will eventually have to increase its asset purchases, rather than when it will scale them back," said London-based Capital Economics.

It added that the BoJ's half-year report was "likely to be upbeat, which may dampen hopes (it) will step up the pace of its asset purchases any time soon".

The BoJ has been ratcheting up its outlook in recent months, with its most recent view seeing an average 2.8 percent expansion in the economy through March next year, as inflation sets in.

"Nonetheless, we expect inflation... to remain well below the 2.0 percent target, averaging only 1.0 percent or so over the next two years," Capital Economics said.

"Correspondingly, we remain confident that, at some point in 2014, the Bank of Japan will announce further policy stimulus," it added.

The inflation target is a key plank of Tokyo's bid to turn around an economy dragged down by years of falling prices.

While deflation may sound like a good thing, it encourages consumers to put off spending in the hope they will be cheaper down the road, which hurts producers.

Cautious firms have been reluctant to usher in widespread pay or capital spending hikes after years of lacklustre consumer demand weighed on their expansion.

However, there are signs that efforts to stoke growth are gaining traction.

Japan's thrifty households boosted their spending last month and unemployment fell, suggesting a tighter jobs market, as wages crept higher.

Also, the nation's factories expanded production, with demand among Japanese consumers for electronics and cars improving ahead of a hike in sales tax next year.

However, some analysts say growth so far is largely thanks to government stimulus spending and central bank monetary easing of up to 70 trillion yen ($720 billion) a year.

They believe it is just a matter of time before the BoJ has to ramp up its asset-purchasing as the effects of the initial injection wears off.


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