TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) – The Bank of Japan (BOJ) left its rock-bottom interest rates unchanged on Thursday (July 21) as it put concern over the economy ahead of any potential implications for the yen for now, further cementing its outlier stance compared with inflation-fighting central banks overseas.

Supporting its view that the recovering economy needs continued support even as the impact of the pandemic softens, the BOJ lowered its economic growth forecast for this year.

At the same time, though, it raised its price forecast for this year by more than expected, a sign that Japan, too, is not immune to inflationary pressure.

The economic downgrade follows lockdowns in China and a jump in Covid-19 cases at home since the last quarterly projections. The global outlook has also darkened as much stronger inflation abroad fuels recession fears exacerbated by the continued war in Ukraine.

The BOJ’s concern over the growth trajectory is linked to its view that a solid recovery is necessary to help make inflation sustainable. While it raised its price forecasts for the current fiscal year to show inflation averaging 2.3 per cent for the year ending in March, it sees that momentum slowing in the 12 months that follow.

With the stand-pat decision, BOJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda is continuing to hunker down on stimulus despite a wave of interest rate hikes by his peers as they try to rein in much stronger price growth.

The European Central Bank is poised to raise borrowing costs later on Thursday to leave the BOJ as the sole remaining dove among major central banks in developed economies.

“The BOJ concluded that while it sees some companies passing price pressures on to consumers, the momentum still isn’t there to keep inflation above 2 per cent in a sustainable manner,” said Ms Harumi Taguchi, principal economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence. “For that to happen, wages will have to keep up with price gains.”

The BOJ’s continued holding pattern and its bias towards further easing show that it is still prepared to risk a further weakening of the yen as it pursues its goal of steady growth with sustainable inflation.

The central bank has gained some breathing space to hold firm on stimulus after concerns over the global economy eased some of the pressure on the yen and 10-year yields.

Japan’s currency was largely unchanged at around 138.37 against the United States dollar having fluctuated immediately after the BOJ decision. It set a fresh 24-year low of 139.39 last week.

“It seems we are past the stage where the yen is prone to drop further simply based on US-Japan rate differences,” Ms Taguchi said. “The market’s focus is shifting to the economic slowdown, especially in the US.”