Japan: Bank of Japan holds policy steady at October meeting; upgrades 2022 GDP outlook
At its meeting ending on 28 October, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) kept its monetary policy unchanged, as widely expected by market analysts. In terms of rates, the BoJ left the short-term policy rate for current accounts held by financial institutions at the Bank unchanged at minus 0.10%. It also continued to not set an upper limit on the amount of Japanese government bonds (JGBs) it will purchase in order to cap the 10-year JGB yield at around 0.00%. Regarding asset purchases, the Bank kept its buying commitments unchanged, including those of exchange traded funds, Japanese real estate investment trusts, corporate paper and corporate bonds.
The policy decisions came amid mild price pressures and a slow pickup in economic activity, with the Bank highlighting the impact and downside risks stemming from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. To this end, it continued to describe the economy as being in a “severe situation” with supply constraints and tepid consumer consumption weighing on activity, and, as such, felt that it had grounds to take a wait-and-see approach.
The Bank also released an updated outlook for economic activity and prices. For FY 2021 (April 2021–March 2022), the Bank downgraded its GDP growth forecast slightly to 3.4% (July report: +3.8%). However, the Bank raised its forecast for FY 2022 to 2.9% growth from 2.7% in its July report. On the price front, the BoJ sees consumer prices remaining unchanged in FY 2021 (July report: +0.6%), before increasing 0.9% in FY 2022, matching the projection from the July report.
Looking ahead, the BoJ maintained its dovish tone in its communiqué, continuing to state that it will “closely monitor the impact of Covid-19 and will not hesitate to take additional easing measures if necessary”, while it also “expects short- and long-term policy interest rates to remain at their present or lower levels”.
Regarding future policy moves, Alvin Liew, senior economist at United Overseas Bank, commented:
“The policy inaction in October was in line with (our and) market expectations and does not change our monetary policy outlook for Japan. The even weaker inflation outlook, as compared to its G7 peers, reinforced our view that the BoJ will not be normalizing/tightening anytime soon and will maintain its massive stimulus in the next few years, possibly at least until FY 2023. There is entrenched belief that the BoJ has little (or even no) room for normalisation and will remain in a holding pattern on policy until at least April 2023 when Governor Kuroda is scheduled to leave the BoJ. Instead, we continue to expect the BoJ to focus its policy direction towards the long-term issue of climate change.”
The next monetary policy meeting is set to end on 17 December.