TOKYO — Bank of Japan (BoJ) policy makers debated the feasibility of ramping up stimulus in the near future when they met for a rate review in September, a summary of their opinions showed on Monday, as intensifying overseas risks cloud the economic outlook.
Some in the nine-member board stressed the need to communicate to markets the BoJ has all options on the table including cutting interest rates, increasing asset buying and printing money at a faster pace, the summary of the Sept. 18-19 meeting showed.
“There is a significant chance the economy will lose momentum to hit our price target. As such, we should consider whether or not to take additional easing steps,” one member was quoted as saying. “The BoJ needs to consider all possible policy measures without preconception,” the member added.
Another board member said it was important for the BoJ to communicate to markets it has not run out of policy options, and that “any kinds of measures are possible at all times.”
At the September meeting, the BoJ kept policy steady but signaled the chance of expanding stimulus as early as its next meeting in October by issuing a stronger warning on overseas risks.
Board members Goushi Kataoka and Yutaka Harada dissented on the decision to keep the BoJ’s yield targets intact, arguing that stronger stimulus measures were needed to fight off risks to Japan’s fragile economic recovery.
In keeping policy steady, the BoJ said Japan’s economy continued to expand moderately as a trend, and that the bank will act if risks threaten to derail the path toward achieving its elusive 2% price target.
Some board members warned that overseas risks, such as the simmering Sino-US trade war, could delay any pick-up in global demand and may already have inflicted enough harm to Japan’s economy to justify action.
But several others appeared wary of pre-committing to action too hastily, signaling that more time was needed to determine whether the benefits of ramping up an already massive stimulus exceeded the costs, the summary showed.
“At the October meeting, it’s important to re-examine economic and price developments,” while taking into account the outcome of the BoJ’s quarterly “tankan” business sentiment survey due on Oct. 1 and the analyses of the central bank’s regional branch managers, one member said.
“That said, the BoJ should not have any preconceptions at this point regarding the outcome of its examination and future policy conduct,” the member was quoted as saying.
Under its yield curve control (YCC) policy, the Bank of Japan pledges to guide short-term rates at -0.1% and the 10-year government bond yield around 0%. It also buys government bonds and risky assets to accelerate inflation to its 2% price goal.
The BoJ is in a bind. Years of heavy money printing has failed to fire up inflation and left it with few ammunition to fight the next recession.
Prolonged ultra-low rates have also strained financial institutions’ profits. While BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has said he won’t rule out deepening negative rates, critics of his policies say any such move could push some regional banks into financial trouble. — Reuters