By Leika Kihara
NAGOYA, Japan (Reuters) – Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Monday that economic growth is gathering momentum and increasing the chances of inflation hitting his 2 percent target, reinforcing market expectations that no additional stimulus is forthcoming.
Kuroda said the central bank was closely watching the economic effects of prolonged ultra-easy policy, particularly the damage it could inflict on financial institutions’ margins.
“The current economic expansion doesn’t rely on specific factors and is supported by various elements. We therefore see the expansion as highly sustainable,” Kuroda said in a speech to business leaders in Nagoya, central Japan.
“The BOJ is mindful of the risk that its low-interest rate policy, if prolonged, could weigh on financial institutions’ profits,” he added, noting that reduced profits could discourage financial institutions from boosting lending.
Kuroda also conceded the BOJ’s huge buying has led to “very low” volatility in Japan’s bond market that could exacerbate market swings, a risk central banks had to be aware of.
The remarks underscore the dominant view within the BOJ that its policy of capping long-term borrowing costs around zero, coupled with a strengthening economic recovery, would be sufficient in achieving its ambitious 2 percent target.
They also counter calls from board newcomer Goushi Kataoka that more easing may be needed to hit 2 percent inflation.
Kataoka dissented to the BOJ’s decision to keep policy steady in September and October. He said at last month’s rate review that the bank should make a stronger commitment to ramp up stimulus if achievement of the price goal is delayed.
Minutes of the September rate review, however, showed that many on the nine-member board believed the BOJ’s current policy was sufficient to achieve 2 percent inflation.
Under a policy framework adopted last year, the BOJ now guides short-term interest rates at minus 0.1 percent and the 10-year government bond yield around zero percent.
It also buys government bonds and riskier assets, including roughly 6 trillion yen ($52 billion) of exchange-traded funds (ETF) per year.
Kuroda said the BOJ may review in the future the pace at which it buys ETFs, criticized by some analysts as distorting an already booming stock market.
“At present, I don’t see the need to change anything,” he added in response to a question from a Nagoya business leader.