BOJ expands stimulus again amid pressure from incoming PM

TOKYO Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:16pm EST

TOKYO Dec 20 (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan eased monetary policy on Thursday by expanding its asset-buying and lending programme, a widely expected move in response to intensifying pressure from incoming premier Shinzo Abe to deliver bolder steps to beat deflation.

The central bank topped up its asset-buying and lending programme by 10 trillion yen ($118.7 billion) to 101 trillion yen by a unanimous vote, expanding stimulus for the third time in the past four months.

It also said the board would review at its next policy-setting meeting in January its guidelines for medium- and long-term price stability, which is now set in a range of zero to 2 percent consumer inflation.

As widely expected, the BOJ maintained its overnight call rate target at a range of zero to 0.1 percent by a unanimous vote.

BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa will hold an embargoed news conference with his comments expected to come out some time after 4:15 p.m. (0715 GMT).

The BOJ set a 1 percent inflation target in February, and expanded monetary stimulus through an increase in asset purchases in September and October, as the pain from weakening exports and factory output nudge the economy into recession.

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