April 8 (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Wednesday and continued with its massive asset-buying stimulus programme, suggesting that policymakers remain unfazed by slowing inflation and recent signs of weakness in the economy.
Following are comments from BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda at his post-meeting news conference:
“Output is picking up as exports rebound and inventory adjustment proceeds. The latest tankan survey shows business sentiment is improving as a whole”
“Household spending is firm as a whole reflecting steady improvements in job and income conditions. A positive cycle of rising income and expenditure remains firmly in place.
“Exports are increasing and companies expect to increase capital expenditure ahead. Job and income conditions are steadily improving and will continue to do so. As such, we expect household spending to stay firm and gradually increase ahead. We always need to look at upside and downside risks. But as for the outlook ... I don’t see any signs that downside risks to household spending are heightening.
“Wages need to rise sustainably for inflation to accelerate but it’s also important for demand to strengthen enough so prices can rise ... I expect consumer inflation to start accelerating again from this autumn.”
“The broad trend in prices is steadily improving. The output gap has improved to around zero and inflation expectations have held up despite the underlying slowdown in inflation. The sharp oil price falls since last summer had been unexpected.
“But thanks to last October’s easing, we have been able to avoid the slowdown in inflation from hurting inflation expectations, and affecting wages and companies’ price-setting behaviour.
“There’s no change to our stance of aiming to achieve 2 percent inflation at the earliest date possible, with a timeframe of two years in mind.
“Of course, there is no change to our stance of acting without hesitation if there is any change in the price trend or if doing so is deemed necessary to achieve our price target at an early date.”
Asked whether risks of delay in dispelling the public’s deflationary mindset is significantly lower now than when the BOJ eased last October, Kuroda said: “I believe so. Back then, the effect of the tax hike has been prolonged and consumption has been quite weak due in part to poor weather. Consumer inflation was slowing each month due to slumping oil prices since summer.
“When you look at conditions now, inflation expectations have held up with some indicators showing they are heightening. For now, the risks we saw back in October last year have subsided.”
“I don’t think there’s a change in a solid U.S. recovery backed by firm domestic demand. It’s not clear yet whether the dollar’s rises up till now is hurting exports. Various other factors may be behind this, some of which may be temporary.
“Regardless of when it occurs, an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve isn’t negative for the global economy because the fact it is raising rates is a sign the U.S. economy is strong.”
Reporting by Leika Kihara, Stanley White and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Kim Coghill