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The BOJ holds fire and sees the economic gloom lift slightly

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TOKYO (Reuters) – The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy stable on Thursday and slightly improved its view of the economy, suggesting that no immediate stimulus expansion was needed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Markets focus on what BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda will say in his post-meeting briefing on how the central bank could work with new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to support the economy with his box with declining political tools.

As widely expected, the BOJ has maintained its short-term interest rate target of -0.1% and its commitment to cap 10-year government bond yields around zero.

It also hasn’t made any major changes to its asset purchase and lending programs to ease corporate financing strains.

The Japanese economy remains in a difficult state but has started to recover with the gradual resumption of business activity, the BOJ said in a statement announcing its policy decision.

That was a little more optimistic than his opinion during the previous rate review in July, when he said the economy was in an extremely serious condition.

Suga on Wednesday became Japan’s first new prime minister in nearly eight years, pledging to contain COVID-19 and push for reforms after keeping around half of the membership of his predecessor Shinzo Abes in his cabinet.

Analysts do not expect any major changes in the relationship between the BOJ and an administration led by Suga who, as Abes ‘right-hand man, has spearheaded the outgoing prime ministers’ strategy to revive the economy with measures bold monetary and fiscal policies.

I’m interested to see what Kuroda might say about the relationship between the BOJ and the new administration, said Masaki Kuwahara, senior economist at Nomura Securities.

Kuroda will likely play it safe and reiterate that he will continue to ease, which will have positive effects on the policy mix between monetary and fiscal policies.

Japan suffered its biggest economic recession on record in second quarter, as COVID-19 hit demand, raising expectations inflation will stay well below BOJ’s 2% target for years .

The BOJ has relaxed its policy twice this year, mainly by speeding up asset purchases and creating a lending system to channel money to struggling small businesses to cushion the blow of the crisis.

Reporting by Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sam Holmes

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