Bank of Japan's July Monetary Policy Meeting
In a highly anticipated monetary policy meeting, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) decided to maintain its yield curve control (YCC) target, keeping it in a range of plus and minus 50 basis points (0.5 percentage points) from zero percent on the 10-year Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs). However, what caught the attention of market participants was the central bank's announcement of a significant shift in its approach, signaling greater flexibility and introducing the possibility of tolerating deviations within an unspecified extent.
BoJ's Shift in Policy Approach
Gone are the days when the BoJ adhered strictly to rigid limits for the YCC target range. Instead, it has adjusted its policy that the upper and lower bounds of the YCC target range are now mere reference points. The central bank tweaked its long-held YCC policy to give itself newfound flexibility and leeway to maneuver its monetary policy in response to prevailing economic conditions.
BoJ's New Bond Buying Arrangement
One concrete step taken by the BoJ to demonstrate this shift away, particularly from the upper bound, is the introduction of a hard stop on the maximum rise in the 10-year JGB yield at a much higher level of 1%. The central bank will now offer to purchase 10-year JGBs at a rate of 1% every business day through fixed-rate purchase operations, effectively capping the maximum increase in the 10-year JGB yield at 1%.
Cross the River by Feeling the Stones
This move, however, gives the BoJ the discretion to intervene in bond buying between 0.5% and 1%, depending on its assessment of the then-prevailing economic landscape and market conditions. The BoJ apparently is cautious in exiting the YCC completely as it notes in its Statement on Monetary Policy that “sustainable and stable achievement of the price stability target of 2 percent, accompanied by wage increases, has not yet come in sight.” The BoJ says that it will continue to do quantitative easing (QE) “until the year-on-year rate of increase in the observed CPI (all items less fresh food) or core CPI exceeds 2 percent and stays above the target in a stable manner”.
In its Outlook for Economic Activity and Prices (July 2023), the median forecasts from the Policy Board Members on the CPI (all items less fresh food) for the fiscal year ending March 2024 was revised down to +1.9% from +2.0% (forecast made in the Outlook in April) and the forecast for the fiscal year 2025 stayed at +1.6% (Figure 1), both below the +2% target.