Bank of Japan holds off new easing measures as tax hike looms

Tuesday 11 March 2014 07.56
Bank of Japan says economy is picking up
Bank of Japan says economy is picking up

The Bank of Japan held off launching fresh monetary easing measures today.

It said the economy was picking up, despite slowing growth in the last quarter of 2013 and fears that a looming tax hike will dent the recovery.

Policymakers kept in place the central bank's existing asset-purchasing scheme - which aims to encourage growth by placing huge amounts of money into the financial system - after a two-day policy meeting.

"Japan's economy has continued to recover moderately, and a front-loaded increase in demand prior to the consumption tax hike has been observed," the BoJ said in a statement.

"The pick-up in business fixed investment has become increasingly evident as corporate profits have improved. Housing investment has continued to increase and private consumption has remained resilient."

Analysts widely expected the Bank of Japan to keep measures steady, with the focus now on regular post-meeting comments from bank governor Haruhiko Kuroda.

Markets are looking for signs that the bank is prepared to launch further measures to counter any slowdown caused by April's sales tax hike, which critics fear will derail Japan's economic recovery.

Those concerns gathered pace yesterday as revised GDP data showed the world's third-largest economy grew at a slower pace than initially thought in the last quarter of 2013, despite a boost in spending ahead of the tax hike.  

The worry is that the rate rise - to 8% from 5% - will weigh on consumer spending and put the brakes on growth in the wider economy.