Corporate Japan unimpressed with BOJ's latest attempt to spur growth: Reuters poll

A man rides a bicycle past the Bank of Japan (BOJ) building in Tokyo.
A man rides a bicycle past the Bank of Japan (BOJ) building in Tokyo. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan Inc has little faith in the central bank's latest shift in monetary policy, with companies saying it won't generate long-desired inflation, spur further business investment or have an impact on the economy.

The findings of the Reuters Corporate Survey - the first broad survey on Japanese companies' reaction to the policy change - suggest a long road ahead for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he seeks to pull an economy out of more than 15 years of deflation and stagnation.

More than 80 per cent of firms said last month's overhaul in policy - one that targets the bond market's yield curve instead of the amount of money pumped into the financial system - will not have an impact on prices or change their capital spending plans.

Two-thirds of companies in the Sept 28-Oct 12 survey also said the new policy would either do little or nothing at all to help the world's third-largest economy which is also grappling with a strong yen, tepid consumer confidence and a declining population.

"Monetary policy is no longer effective," wrote a manager at a machinery firm, in comments echoed by many others. "The BOJ has created a phenomenon where there is a lot of money sloshing around but interest in investing has receded so the money is not going anywhere," the manager wrote.

Companies answered anonymously to the monthly survey which is conducted for Reuters by Nikkei Research. Of the 532 big and medium-sized non-financial firms polled, more than 250 responded to questions on BOJ policy.

The new BOJ policy follows extraordinary lengths over the past three years by the central bank to fan inflation with radical stimulus that has included negative interest rates and massive bond buying.

But even so nearly half of firms in the survey saw the Bank of Japan's inflation target of 2 per cent as taking more than three years to attain while a quarter said the goal was impossible. None thought the target was attainable within a year.

In contrast, the BOJ currently forecasts inflation will hit 2 per cent in the next 18 months.

"With the population shrinking, demand in general is on the decline and so prices will not rise," wrote a manager at a real estate firm.

The BOJ's move has been seen as an attempt to repair some of the damage to the finance sector caused by its shock move to negative interest rates early this year and promote bank lending by widening the gap between long- and short-term rates, ensuring that banks can earn a profit on loans.

But in addition to the 82 per cent of firms that said the policy change would not change their capital spending plans, another 12 per cent said it had actually made them more cautious about investing.

"It seems as if companies increasingly believe that monetary policy has its limits and that other efforts such as social security reform, deregulation and a growth strategy are needed,"said Taro Saito, director of economic research at NLI Research Institute, who reviewed the results.

The results of the survey underscore the sometimes odd sense of crisis besetting corporate Japan.

On one hand, a sharp strengthening of yen since the start of this year threatens to depress profits and has prompted penny-pinching measures from major firms like Toyota Motor Corp and electronic goods maker Panasonic Corp such as turning off lights and cutting down on the number of elevators in use.

But at the same time, companies are sitting on plenty of funds that they could invest if they were convinced of a brighter long-term future for Japan.

Central bank data shows non-financial firms were sitting on a record 242 trillion yen (S$3.24 trillion) in cash and deposits in the second quarter, up by 12 trillion yen from three years ago.

In comparison, capital spending grew only 5 trillion yen over the past three years to 70 trillion yen in fiscal 2015 - 10 per cent below levels seen just before the 2008 financial crisis.