BOJ Pours $183 Billion Into Japan Economy, Doubles Asset-Purchase on Quake
The Bank of Japan poured a record amount of cash into the financial system and doubled the size of its asset-purchase program to shield the economy from the effects of the nation’s strongest earthquake on record.
The central bank pumped 15 trillion yen ($183 billion) into money markets to assure financial stability amid a plunge in stocks and surge in credit risk. Governor Masaaki Shirakawa and his board also increased their facility that buys assets from government bonds to exchange-traded funds to 10 trillion yen.
Today’s steps go beyond the forecast of analysts including Takehiro Sato, chief Japan economist at Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities Co. The central bank said in its statement that policy makers were concerned that corporate and household sentiment will worsen, with production set to decline in the aftermath of the temblor and the tsunami it produced.
“We are providing as much funds as needed to dispel anxiety in financial markets,” Kazushige Kamiyama, an official in charge of the central bank’s money market operations, said before the policy announcement. “We will continue to add ample funds to stabilize financial markets.”
The BOJ kept its benchmark interest rate at a range of zero to 0.1 percent. Borrowing costs were already cut near zero last year as officials sought to revive growth and end deflation.
Japan faces power blackouts, the risk of meltdowns at a nuclear power station, and a predicted death toll of more than 10,000 after the 8.9-magnitude temblor and subsequent tsunami devastated northeastern regions. More than 350,000 people are in emergency shelters.
Besides the 15 trillion yen of emergency funds deployed in the central bank’s biggest one-day operation, the Bank of Japan offered to buy 3 trillion yen of government bonds from lenders in repurchase agreements starting March 16.
The disaster may have killed 10,000 in Miyagi prefecture north of Tokyo, said Go Sugawara, a spokesman for the prefectural police department. The official toll reached 1,597, with 1,481 more missing and 1,683 injured, the National Police Agency said.
Before the quake, Japan’s economy was showing signs of a revival, after shrinking an annualized 1.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.
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