Bank of Japan cuts growth, inflation forecasts but holds fire on more stimulus

Pedestrians in Tokyo's Shibuya district.
Pedestrians in Tokyo's Shibuya district.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO (AFP) - The Bank of Japan (BOJ) on Wednesday cut its growth and inflation forecasts for the world's third-largest economy, but said a recovery was still underway as it held fire on more easing measures.

Following a two-day policy meeting, the BOJ said Japan's economy would expand 1.7 per cent in the fiscal year to March 2016 while inflation would come in at 0.7 per cent.

That was down from 2.0 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively, estimated earlier this year.

BOJ policymakers have been scaling back their expectations in recent months, as governor Haruhiko Kuroda conceded that an ambitious 2.0 per cent inflation target was still some way off.

Kuroda will hold a regular post-meeting news briefing later Wednesday.

Japan's economy expanded 1.0 per cent in January-March after limping out of recession in the last three months of 2014, and business confidence remains strong.

But consumer spending has struggled after a sales tax rise last year and economists widely expect the BOJ to ramp up its easing programme, likely later this year, to bring Japan closer to its inflation target.

The target is a cornerstone of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to conquer years of stagnant or falling prices and revive the economy.

On Wednesday, the BOJ stood pat on its record asset-purchase programme, which is pumping about 80 trillion yen (S$880 billion) into the financial system annually in a bid to jack up prices and kickstart growth.