* Combining schemes would allow more purchases of L/T debt
* Kuroda repeats pledge of hitting BOJ's price goal in 2 yrs
* BOJ set to ease this week, debate overhaul of framework
* Abe says not asking BOJ to hit price target at all costs
By Leika Kihara and Stanley White
TOKYO, April 2 New Bank of Japan Governor
Haruhiko Kuroda said he wants to combine two different schemes
that the central bank uses to purchase government debt,
reinforcing expectations of bold monetary stimulus ahead of his
first policy-setting meeting on Thursday.
Combining the two schemes would make it easier for the BOJ
to buy longer-term debt as Kuroda looks to aggressively expand
the central bank's balance sheet and achieve 2 percent inflation
in two years.
But his pledge for aggressive stimulus faced heat in
parliament for relying too much on the psychological impact of
any action, while a plunge in workers' bonus payments
underscored the challenges the central bank faces in trying to
put an end to nearly two decades of grinding deflation.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said he is not necessarily
asking the BOJ to achieve its price target "at all costs," as
factors beyond the bank's control, such as global economic
developments, may sway future price moves.
"My intention is to combine the two bond-purchasing
operations we currently have to make our monetary policy easier
to understand," Kuroda told lawmakers in the lower house budget
"I won't exclude any options, but it is up to the monetary
policy committee to debate which durations we would buy."
Speaking a day before the start of the two-day rate review,
Kuroda reiterated his pledge of achieving the BOJ's inflation
target in two years by taking aggressive monetary policy both in
terms of the volume and type of assets it purchases.
"It is not easy to beat deflation, which has continued in
Japan for 15 years. But the BOJ will use all options available
and do whatever it takes to show markets its strong commitment,"
he told the same parliament committee.
Under an asset-buying program, its key monetary easing tool,
the BOJ plans to buy 44 trillion yen ($471.8 billion) in bonds
with up to three years to maturity by year-end.
The BOJ will likely switch to open-ended asset purchases at
the meeting ending on Thursday and buy 2 trillion yen in bonds
every month without setting a deadline, sources familiar with
the central bank's thinking have said.
The BOJ also buys 21.6 trillion yen in long-term bonds,
including those with durations exceeding 10 years, outright
annually under another program, dubbed "rinban", which is not
tied to monetary policy.
Combining the asset-buying with "rinban" operations would
allow the BOJ to buy longer-dated bonds, mainly five-year and
10-year bonds, more easily and clarify how much it is expanding
its balance sheet.
"The economy is a living thing, so we don't know what could
happen in the future. What's important is for the BOJ to make
efforts toward its goal. If it can't meet the target, it has a
responsibility to explain why. If it has a good explanation,
that's fine," Abe said in the same committee.
Still, Abe said he will not rule out as a future option a
revision to the BOJ Law if it fails to meet its policy
commitment. The law guarantees the central bank's independence
from the government in guiding monetary policy.
DOSE OF SCEPTICISM
The central bank is expected to ramp up its bond buying,
extending the maturity of bonds it buys from the current three
years, and debate an overhaul of its policy framework at the
two-day rate review that kicks off on Wednesday.
But Kuroda sidestepped the question of how much the economy
would need to grow in order for prices to rise by 2 percent,
when grilled by an opposition lawmaker that his plans may be
relying too much on the psychological impact of easing policy.
It will take time for Japan's output gap to narrow enough to
push up prices, but the BOJ can speed up the pace by heightening
inflation expectations with aggressive easing, he said.
"It's important to communicate well our strong commitment to
change market expectations. It's also important to meet
expectations with action, so we will take bold easing measures,"
Under pressure from Abe to take bolder action, the BOJ eased
policy and doubled its inflation target to 2 percent in January.
But analysts doubt whether Japan can see such a level soon with
consumer prices still barely rising.
Base money, or cash and reserves at the BOJ, jumped 19.8
percent in March from a year earlier to reach 134.7 trillion yen
($1.44 trillion), exceeding the previous record hit in December
last year, central bank data showed on Tuesday.
Current account deposits commercial banks park with the BOJ
soared 72.2 percent to 47.4 trillion yen as the bank pumped
money into the economy through asset purchases, the data showed.
But the huge pile of money has failed to end deflation or
boost wages. Wage earners' total cash earnings fell 0.7 percent
in February from a year earlier as winter bonus payments
declined the most in three years, a separate data showed on
Some central bankers, such as former BOJ Governor Masaaki
Shirakawa, have also warned that by buying too much government
bonds, the central bank can trigger a spike in bond yields by
giving markets the impression it is monetising public debt.
New BOJ Deputy Governor Kikuo Iwata told Tuesday's
parliament that it was important that Japan ensures its bond
yields do not rise due to investors demanding an increased risk
premium for holding debt.