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BOJ keeps policy unchanged; rates at -0.1%, bond purchases at current pace

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) held off on expanding stimulus on Tuesday, despite pushing back the time frame for hitting its 2 percent inflation target, signaling that it will stand pat unless a severe market shock threatens to derail a fragile recovery.

In a widely expected move, the BOJ maintained the 0.1 percent interest it charges for a portion of excess reserves that financial institutions park with the central bank. At the two-day policy meeting that ended unusually quickly on Tuesday, it also left unchanged its 10-year government bond yield target around zero percent.

In a statement released with the decision, the BOJ maintained its forecast that the economy was likely to expand moderately, although weaknesses would remain in exports and trade, Reuters reported.. Medium-to-long-term expectations on growth were sensitive to efforts by the government to tacking Japan's aging population and undertake institutional reforms, it said.

The central bank said that the risk of its policies destabilizing the financial system was not big at present, although the prolonged low-interest rate environment could weigh on banks' profits, Reuters reported.

While the BOJ no longer targets the pace of money printing, it maintained a pledge to keep buying government bonds so the balance of its holdings increases at an annual pace of 80 trillion yen.

At a quarterly review of its forecasts, the BOJ cut its core consumer inflation forecast for the next fiscal year ending in March 2018 to 1.5 percent from 1.7 percent projected in July.

Japan's core consumer prices fell for a seventh straight month and household spending slumped in September, endorsing the central bank's view that it will take some time for inflation to accelerate to its 2 percent target as the economy stagnates.

The BOJ said it was particularly concerned by the "dull response" in some services prices, despite the tight job market, and that falls in housing rentals had accelerated, possibly constraining consumer price inflation.

Desperate to stimulate growth, encourage capital investment and reverse price declines, the Bank of Japan has embraced negative interest rates, bought up massive amounts of bonds and snapped up riskier assets such as exchange-traded funds.

But a Reuters survey of Japanese companies in September found that few expected the central bank's aggressive monetary stimulus to meet its goal of spurring inflation, with firms citing negative fallout from the program more than positive effects.

Japan's economy expanded for the second straight quarter in April-June but many analysts expect growth to remain modest for the rest of this year, with exports and output weak on sluggish global demand. Slow wage growth has also hurt consumption, further undermining the chance of a strong near-term revival in the world's third-largest economy.

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