Economics

No BoJ rate cut, but new policies brought in to boost inflation

The BoJ move is welcome, but will the public be convinced?

21 September 2016

Keith Wade

Keith Wade

Chief Economist & Strategist

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) did not cut rates but did introduce two new policy measures at today’s meeting.

  1. “QQE (quantitative and qualitative easing) with yield curve control” which essentially means directing asset purchases so as to keep 10-year government bond yields close to zero.
  2. “Inflation overshooting commitment” which means keeping monetary policy loose until inflation exceeds 2% and stays above target.

Some relief for banks

The first measure aims to mitigate the adverse effects of negative interest rates on the financial sector, a policy which puts pressure on bank margins.

By targeting a zero 10-year JGB (Japanese government bond) yield, the BoJ can at least stop the gap between banks’ borrowing costs and lending rates from narrowing further and squeezing their margins.

The financial sector led a strong rally in the equity market in response.

Raising inflation expectations is key

The second measure is an acknowledgement by the BoJ that they have failed to hit their 2% inflation target.
Increasing the target to one of “overshooting” may seem perverse, but the aim is to raise inflation expectations in the economy.

Increasing the commitment to higher prices is a bold attempt to break the deflationary mind-set which holds back wage rises and thus reinforces low inflation.

Further action likely to be needed

Today’s moves have been well received by the markets: alongside the rally in the equity market, government bond yields have risen slightly and despite an increase in volatility the yen has been stable.

There was a risk that by not cutting rates the market would have seen today’s action as hawkish, thus sparking a strong rally in the yen and a tightening of financial conditions.

However, in terms of economic impact we are sceptical as to whether today’s moves will make much difference.

The overshooting commitment is welcome, but for it to succeed the public must believe that the BoJ can credibly raise inflation, something it has failed to do so far.

That does not mean it will fail, only that more action will be needed and we would look for a rate cut at the next BoJ meeting on 1 November.

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