Central Banks

BOJ keeps policy steady, trims 2014 growth target

BOJ banking on second-half boost: HSBC
BOJ banking on second-half boost: HSBC

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) on Tuesday stuck to its stimulus program and projections that inflation will reach its 2 percent target next year, despite recent downbeat data that reignited concerns over the world's third-biggest economy.

The central bank also cut its growth projection for the current financial year to 1.0 percent, from 1.1 percent, but kept its 2015 and 2016 growth targets intact at 1.9 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

The BOJ maintained its pledge to increase base money by 60-70 trillion yen ($592-$691 billion) per year via aggressive asset purchases, mostly in Japanese government bonds.

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The widely expected decision comes even as calls grow louder for BOJ to take action amid weak exports and poor household spending after a sales tax hike took effect in April.

"There was the tax hike at the start of April which really threw out all of the data - all the inflation, confidence and spending figures - so it's a little tricky at the moment to get an exact fix on how the economy is running," Glenn Levine, Senior Economist at Moody's Analytics told CNBC.

"The central bank tends to think that underlying inflation is running at one and a quarter percent. That feels about right but that's well short of their 2 percent inflation target and it's going to be awhile to hit the 2 percent at a sustainable basis," he added.

Looking down on Shibuya crossing, Tokyo, Japan.
Tom Bonaventure | Getty Images

The decision to raise consumption tax to 8 percent from 5 percent to reduce Japan's hefty debt pile, currently more than twice its gross domestic product, has been viewed by some as counter intuitive to the government's push to kick the country out of its two-decade long deflationary spiral.

At a news conference after the BOJ decision, governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the downturn in spending following the sales tax hike is "within expectations" and he expects household spending to remain firm, reflecting improvements in job and income conditions.

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The central bank has refrained from further action since unleashing the burst of stimulus in April 2013.

"There is somewhat of a policy mistake," Alain Bokobza, head of global asset allocation at Societe Generale, told CNBC last week. "If you tighten the fiscal policy, normally to be neutral, you should loosen the monetary policy further. And we are still waiting for it and we think we are going to be disappointed for some time."

As it is, many analysts don't believe the 2 percent inflation target will be met next year.

"We don't see inflation picking up beyond this 1 percent level. We think in fact prices will come down in the coming months as that year-over-year base effect on higher energy prices last year fades," said Izumi Devalier, Japan economist at HSBC.

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"I think the BOJ strategy is to give this program 2 years, I don't think they are going to admit that they will fall short of their inflation target until the very last moment so in the near moment, easing is unlikely," she added.