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BOJ board members call for debate on rate policy, ETF purchases

Amid rises in consumer spending and in stock prices and earnings, some board members of the Bank of Japan have called for a discussion on raising interest rates, lowering purchases of exchange-traded funds, and exiting from monetary easing, a summary of opinions expressed at the Dec. 20-21 policy meeting showed.

Given an improving outlook on economic activity, the BOJ will need to consider whether "adjustments in the level of interest rates will be necessary," one board member said.

Another board member said the policy effects and the possible side effects of purchases of risky assets including ETFs should be examined from "every angle" in light of "substantially improved" stock prices and corporate profits.

Other board members argued that an exit from monetary easing "needs to be considered" in light of developments such as South Korea's recent policy rate hike. Compared with the economy of South Korea, they said it is "too early" for the BOJ to change its monetary policy.

The summary did not identify individual speakers and their specific views. It also did not indicate how many in the BOJ's nine-person board share these views.

The BOJ, in a 8-1 vote on Dec. 21, decided to maintain the policy rate at negative 0.1%. Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the BOJ will continue to "persistently pursue powerful monetary easing" until the 2% inflation target is achieved. Prices have also not risen as fast as one would expect in spite of Japan's improved economy and a tight labor market, he said.