The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Thursday even as sluggish global growth and anaemic inflation put policymakers under pressure to do more to reflate the economy out of stagnation, bolstering the yen and battering Tokyo stocks.
While the central bank maintained its optimistic view of the economy, it cut its view on consumer inflation to say prices were likely to fall slightly year-on-year or hover around flat for the time being.
The yen rose more than 1 percent against the dollar to hit a 20-month high, while the Nikkei stock average fell 2 percent after the BOJ’s decision.
“There is nothing in recent economic indicators that would lead the BOJ to change its economic outlook now,” said Norio Miyagawa, senior economist at Mizuho Securities.
“However, the rising yen will place more downward pressure on consumer prices, so I expect the BOJ to ease in July, using all three dimensions of its current policy framework.”
The BOJ maintained its massive asset buying programme at the two-day rate review that ended on Thursday, pledging to increase base money at an annual pace of 80 trillion yen ($753 billion).
It also left unchanged a 0.1 percent negative interest rate applied to some of the excess reserves financial institutions park with the central bank.
The decision to maintain the base money target was made by a 8-1 vote, while maintaining the 0.1 percent negative rate was agreed in a 7-2 vote.
The dollar briefly fell to 104.50 yen, its lowest level since September 2014, as the BOJ’s inaction added to mounting downward pressure on the dollar on receding expectations of a near-term U.S. interest rate hike.
NO HELP FROM FED
A possible vote by Britain to leave the European Union was the biggest near-term concern for BOJ officials, and all the more reason to hold fire until after the June 23 referendum.
A Reuters poll showed economists have seen a much higher chance of the BOJ easing at its meeting on July 28-29, when it issues fresh quarterly growth and inflation forecasts, assuming that global markets remain stable.
The BOJ is in a bind. Despite nearly three years of aggressive money printing, inflation has ground to a halt on weak consumption and exports.
In addition, receding expectations of a near-term U.S. rate hike have dashed the BOJ’s hopes of getting help from Fed policy to keep sharp yen rises at bay.
The Fed kept rates unchanged on Wednesday and signalled it still planned to raise rates twice in 2016, although it said slower economic growth would crimp the pace of monetary policy tightening in future years.
While BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda argues he has plenty of ammunition to ease further, some BOJ officials have openly voiced doubts on what more the central bank can deliver and whether it would be any more successful than earlier stimulus efforts.