June 28, 2019 / 2:54 AM / 3 months ago

Bank of Japan board's debate of more easing at June meet signals possible early action

OSAKA (Reuters) - Bank of Japan policymakers debated the feasibility of ramping up stimulus at their meeting in June, according to a summary of their opinions, which could heighten speculation the central bank will top up monetary support as early as next month.

FILE PHOTO: People walk on a street in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/File Photo

The discussions, released on Friday, also showed one board member urged that “all policy measures” should be on the table, underscoring the strains on Japan’s export-reliant economy from slowing global growth and the U.S.-China trade war.

The policymaker said the BOJ must show its readiness to act if the economy’s recovery is derailed.

“All policy measures, including adjustments in short- and long-term interest rates, an acceleration in the pace of money printing and an increase in the amount of asset buying, should be deliberated when considering additional easing,” the member was quoted as saying.

Another board member said it was necessary to consider the feasibility of using “a wide range of tools” to ramp up stimulus, while being mindful of their effects and side-effects.

“Amid changes in the external environment such as growing expectations for monetary easing in the United States and Europe, the BOJ also needs to strengthen monetary easing,” the member was quoted as saying.

Others in the nine-member board disagreed, calling for maintaining the current stimulus program for the time being as the economy has so far sustained a moderate expansion, the summary showed.

The BOJ does not disclose the identity of those who made the comments at the rate review. Board member Goushi Kataoka has consistently called on the central bank to take stronger steps to stimulate the economy.

The BOJ kept policy steady this month but governor Haruhiko Kuroda signaled readiness to boost stimulus as global risks cloud the outlook, joining U.S. and European central banks in opening the door to additional easing. [nL4N23R0IJ]

Japan’s economy expanded by an annualized 2.1% in the first quarter but many analysts predict growth will slow in coming months as the U.S.-China row wears on.

The summary underscores a rift within the board between those who see room to ramp up stimulus, and others who are worried about the rising cost of prolonged easing such as the knock to financial institutions’ profits from near-zero rates.

One board member said lending rates seem to be approaching levels considered the “reversal rate,” or the rate at which the drawbacks of ultra-low borrowing costs exceed the benefits.

“If base rates for bank loans decline further, there could be a decline in the amount of bank loans,” the member said.

Some analysts believe the BOJ would take steps to mitigate the pain on financial institutions if it were to ease further.

An idea being floated in markets is for the BOJ to provide funds to financial institutions at negative rates, essentially paying them to borrow money from the central bank.

One of the board members dismissed the idea, saying it would not lead to an increase in the amount of bank loans and instead add to the plight of financial institutions by pushing down interest rates further, the summary showed.

Under a policy dubbed yield curve control (YCC), the BOJ guides short-term rates at minus 0.1% and 10-year government bond yields around zero percent. It also buys massive amounts of government bonds and risky assets such as exchange-traded funds.

Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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