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Economy

BOJ stands pat as global uncertainty dissipates

US-China 'phase one' deal and service sector resilience reduce need for more easing

The Bank of Japan held interest rates steady despite concerns about private sector consumption weakening after an increase in the sales tax in October. 

TOKYO -- The Bank of Japan kept its ultra easy monetary policy unchanged on Thursday as uncertainty over the state of the global economy fades.

After a two-day policy board meeting, the Japanese central bank decided to maintain its current measures, including guiding long-term interest rates to around zero, keeping short-term interest rates to minus 0.1%, and increasing the central bank's holdings of Japanese government debt by 80 trillion yen a year. 

The decision follows the 'phase one' trade agreement between the U.S. and China last week that has staved off a further escalation of tensions for now.

The landslide victory by the Conservative Party in Britain's general election last week also appeared to resolve several years of confusion over Brexit by setting the country firmly on course toward exiting the European Union.

The BOJ's Tankan quarterly survey of business sentiment this week points to more steady growth in Japan, with a resilient service sector offsetting weakness in exports, reducing the need for additional monetary stimulus.

Signs of an uptick in growth are also apparent in China. The country's manufacturing purchasing managers index turned positive for the first time in seven months in November and industrial production in the same month grew at the fastest pace since June.

Global monetary authorities are responding to these signals by taking their foot off the accelerator. Last week, the U.S. Federal Reserve left its monetary policy unchanged, following three rate cuts between July and October. The European Central Bank also held its policy steady this month, after lowering its deposit rate to minus 0.5% from minus 0.4% in September.

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