UPDATE 3-BOJ joins peers to fight coronavirus fallout, ramps up risky asset buying

Leika Kihara and Daniel Leussink


* BOJ doubles pace of ETF, J-REIT purchases

* BOJ sets aside 2 trln yen for CP, corporate bond buying

* Short-, long-term rate targets left unchanged

* Gov Kuroda to hold news conference 4 p.m. (0700GMT) (Recasts with policy decision)

TOKYO, March 16 (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan eased monetary policy on Monday by pledging to buy risky assets such as exchange-traded funds (ETF) at double the current pace, joining global central banks in combating the widening economic fallout form the coronavirus epidemic.

The central bank also decided to create a new loan programme to extend one-year, zero-rate loans to financial institutions in an effort to boost lending to firms hit by the virus outbreak.

"The BOJ will take additional monetary easing steps as needed without hesitation with a close eye on the impact from the coronavirus epidemic for the time being," it said in a statement after a hastily called emergency meeting.

The BOJ said it will "aggressively" buy ETFs at an annual pace of around 12 trillion yen ($112.55 billion), double the amount it had pledged to buy up till now.

It will also double the pace of purchases for Japanese real-estate trust funds (J-REIT) to 180 billion yen per year.

In a bid to prevent credit markets from freezing up, the central bank will also set aside 2 trillion yen for additional purchases of commercial paper and corporate bonds.

The BOJ left unchanged its -0.1% short-term interest rate target and a pledge to guide long-term rates around 0%.

"Japan's economic activity is likely to remain weak for the time being, mainly affected by the coronavirus outbreak," the BOJ said in the statement. "Thereafter, it is expected to return to a moderate expansionary trend."

Monday's meeting replaced a regular rate review that was initially scheduled for March 18-19.

BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda will hold a news conference at 4 p.m. (0700 GMT) to explain the policy decision.

The BOJ's review comes in the wake of the U.S. Federal Reserve's emergency 100-basis point rate cut to near zero on Sunday, which was followed hours later by an unexpected 75 basis point easing by the New Zealand central bank, underscoring policymakers' worries of a world economy unraveling rapidly amid the epidemic.

The epidemic has spread rapidly around the world, killing over 5,800 and infectiing more than 156,000 people, putting many countries on virtual lockdowns and severely disrupting global econmic activity.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government will work closely with the BOJ to take "bold, unprecedented" measures to mitigate the pain the epidemic is inflicting on the world's third-largest economy.

Under a policy dubbed yield curve control (YCC), the BOJ guides short-term rates at -0.1% and the 10-year government bond yield around zero. It also buys risky assets such as ETFs.

($1 = 106.6200 yen) (Reporting by Leika Kihara, Daniel Leussink; additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Sam Nussey; Editing by Chris Gallagher & Shri Navaratnam)

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