With the Fed contemplating whether to hike again next month and start “normalizing ” its balance sheet before the end of 2017, the two other major central banks are facing far bigger problems.
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Two months after the BOJ quietly started tapering its QE program, when it also hinted it may purchase 18% less bonds than planned…
… Governor Haruhiko Kuroda admitted last week that the Bank of Japan’s bond holdings are currently growing at an annualized pace of only ¥60 trillion ($527 billion), 25% below the bottom-end of its policy range, and confirming that without making any formal announcement, the BOJ has quietly followed the ECB in aggressively tapering its bond buying program.
Under questioning from opposition party lawmaker Seiji Maehara, who noted that the pace of bond accumulation by the BOJ had slowed, Kuroda said the trend could continue, without elaborating. He noted that the central bank’s target is to control interest rates rather than the amount of bond purchases. “This development signals to me that they are going with rates without talking about a quantitative target,” said Atsushi Takeda, an economist at Itochu Corp. in Tokyo. “That will be better when they think about an exit.”
While the BOJ’s purchase slowdown has been visible for months in data released by the central bank, Kuroda’s confirmation of this reality in parliament last Wednesday marks a stark change. As Bloomberg notes, until now he’d struggled to emphasize that the annual pace could vary from an indicative 80 trillion yen, depending on the state of the economy and financial markets. He now appears to have thrown in the towel. Meanwhile, investors are watching for any hint of tightening in monetary policy amid speculation that the central bank’s bond purchase regime is unsustainable and as consumer prices in Japan are expected to pick up later this year.
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