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Bank of Japan keeps monetary policy unchanged, raises GDP forecasts

The Bank of Japan kept its monetary policy unchanged, as widely expected, and painted a better picture for the domestic economy while cutting its inflation forecasts.

In a 7-2 majority vote, the central bank's policy board decided to maintain the short-term policy rate at negative 0.1% and its commitment to purchasing Japanese government banks to keep 10-year yields at around zero percent. The bank said it expects to keep short- and long-term interest rates at "present or lower levels" for as long as necessary to keep inflation on its path toward the target.

"The momentum toward achieving the price stability target of 2% is maintained but is not yet sufficiently firm," the BoJ said in its revised outlook for the Japanese economy, released alongside the monetary policy decision.

The BoJ cut its forecasts for core inflation, which excludes prices of fresh food, for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 to 0.6% and 1.0%, respectively, from 0.7% and 1.1% previously. Excluding the effect of the sales tax hike to 10% from 8% that took effect in October 2019 and policies for the provision of free education, core inflation is expected to hit 0.4% in fiscal 2019 and 0.9% the following year, down slightly from previous forecasts of 0.5% and 1.0%, respectively.

Meanwhile, the central bank also raised its forecasts for the Japanese economy's expansion, with real GDP now expected to grow 0.8% in fiscal 2019 and 0.9% the year after, up from prior respective projections of 0.6% and 0.7%. The BoJ said the Japanese economy is likely to continue expanding through fiscal 2021 as the impact on domestic demand of a slowdown in overseas economies is expected to be limited.

The BoJ's policymakers also pledged to buy exchange-traded funds and Japanese real estate investment trusts to maintain their respective annual growth pace at roughly ¥6 trillion and approximately ¥90 billion.

As of Jan. 20, 2020, US$1 was equivalent to ¥110.16.