Bank of Japan sees economy improving region by region, keeps upbeat view

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan raised its economic assessment for three of Japan's nine regions in a quarterly report on Monday, signalling that the benefits of its stimulus programme was broadening.

The central bank kept intact its optimistic assessment for the remaining six regions, stressing that solid demand at home and overseas are underpinning output and the job market. "All regions said their economies are either recovering or recovering moderately," the BOJ said in the report, issued at a quarterly meeting of the bank's regional branch managers.

It was the sixth straight month that the BOJ used the word"recovering" in its assessment for all regions, underscoring its optimism over the outlook for the world's third-largest economy.

"Japan's economy is likely to continue recover moderately as a trend," BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told the meeting, reiterating the bank's resolve to keep its stimulus intact for as long as needed to achieve its 2 per cent inflation target.

Japan's economy is emerging from last year's recession as factory output and exports rebound. But private consumption has been disappointingly weak, casting doubt on the strength of the recovery and keeping alive expectations the BOJ may expand stimulus again sometime this year.

The BOJ will issue fresh long-term economic and inflation forecasts at the next rate review on April 30. Some analysts say the central bank may ease at the meeting if it cuts its bullish inflation forecast for the current fiscal year to March 2016.