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HIGHLIGHTS-BOJ Governor Kuroda comments at news conference

TOKYO, June 16 (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Friday and upgraded its assessment of private consumption and overseas growth, signaling its confidence that an export-driven economic recovery was broadening and gaining momentum.

Following are comments from BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda at his post-meeting news conference:

DEFLATIONARY MINDSET

"It is taking long to turn around Japan's deflationary mindset because the country has been mired in deflation for a long time. People tend to act on the assumption that wages and prices won't rise ... But the job market is tightening further, so we will likely see that pushing up sales prices. We expect inflation to gradually accelerate ahead."

"We're recently seeing some data showing inflation expectations not just bottoming out but heading higher. But we can't say yet that inflation expectations have completely turned positive ... At some point, we expect underlying inflation and inflation expectations to heighten. But that will take some time."

INFLATION TARGET

"There's some distance to achieving 2 percent inflation, so it's inappropriate to say now specifically how we will exit our ultra-loose monetary policy and how that could affect the BOJ's financial health. Laying out specific simulations now would only create confusion. We will debate an exit strategy only after 2 percent inflation is achieved and price growth stays there stably."

PACE OF BOND BUYING

"The pace of our government bond buying will fluctuate from time to time depending on market conditions. The amount we buy would be determined based on how much is necessary to guide interest rates appropriately. We won't set in advance the pace of our bond buying."

ON BOJ'S PURCHASES OF EXCHANGE-TRADED FUNDS

"Our purchases (of ETFs) are one factor of our QQE program. We don't buy these assets to manipulate stock prices to a certain level. We buy them to achieve our 2 percent inflation target at the earliest date possible."

WHETHER BOJ COULD SLOW ETF PURCHASES

"Theoretically that's possible ... Our bond purchases to achieve curve control and our ETF purchases that aim to cut risk premium don't necessarily have to completely synchronize."

"Having said that, our ETF purchases are conducted as part of the entire QQE program. So the decision on the pace of ETF purchases won't be made independently from achievement of our 2 percent inflation target."

(Reporting by Leika Kihara, Stanley White and Tetsushi Kajimoto)