BOJ Agreed to Keep Low Rates, Divided on Exit Timing – July Meeting Minutes

FILE PHOTO: Japanese national flag is hoisted atop the headquarters of Bank of Japan in Tokyo, Japan September 20, 2023.

TOKYO, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Bank of Japan policymakers agreed on the need to maintain ultra-loose monetary policy but were divided on how soon the central bank could end negative interest rates, minutes of its July meeting showed on Wednesday.

One member said there was “still a significantly long way to go” before the BOJ can revise its negative interest rate policy, the minutes showed.

Another member, however, said achievement of the BOJ’s 2% inflation target had “clearly come in sight,” adding that it might be possible to assess whether the target has been met “around January through March 2024,” the minutes showed.

Many members agreed the central bank must keep interest rates ultra-low for now as stable, sustainable achievement of its 2% target was not yet in sight, the minutes showed.

At the July meeting, the BOJ maintained its easy policy settings but took steps to allow long-term borrowing costs to rise more freely in line with increasing inflation and economic growth.

While Governor Kazuo Ueda dismissed the view the July action was a prelude to a future exit from its current policy, many market players now expect the BOJ to begin phasing out its massive stimulus program later this year or in 2024.

Under its yield curve control (YCC) policy, the BOJ guides short-term interest rates at -0.1% and caps the 10-year government bond yield around 0%.