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Bank of Japan plans big monetary stimulus

In Tokyo, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda

In Tokyo, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda lists steps to boost the sputtering economy, including flooding the financial system with money: a stimulus “large beyond reason” but necessary. (April 4, 2013) Credit: EPA

Japan said Thursday it will take aggressive action to lift consumer prices, encourage borrowing and help pull the world's third-largest economy out of a long slump.

Like the U.S. Federal Reserve, Japan's central bank plans to flood its financial system with more money -- its most far-reaching step to date to get consumers and companies to borrow and spend.

The Bank of Japan's action will also drive down the value of the yen. A cheaper currency will make Japanese goods -- from Toyota cars to Sony TVs -- less costly for Americans and other foreigners. And it will make U.S. and other exports more expensive in Japan.

Dan Akerson, CEO of General Motors Co., told CNBC that he feared the Bank of Japan's policies would give Japanese automakers a price advantage over GM in the United States.

"They're an export economy," Akerson said. "You have to be suspicious of what they're doing and why."

But many economists say the rest of the world will benefit, too: A faster-growing Japan will buy more products and services from the United States, China and Europe, helping boost their economies.

"We could see some faster and sustainable growth now in Japan," said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. "That will obviously help the global economy."

Japan's economy has been sputtering for two decades. Last year, weak consumer spending kept prices flat. The Bank of Japan hopes to increase inflation to 2 percent within about two years. Economists say Japanese consumers will start spending if they know prices are going to rise.

In its announcement, the Bank of Japan said it plans to buy more than $530 billion a year in government bonds. BOJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda described the scale of monetary stimulus as "large beyond reason," but said the inflation target would remain out of reach if the central bank stuck to incremental steps.

"We'll adjust without hesitation if need be, while monitoring economic and price conditions," he said.

The Bank of Japan said it intends to "drastically change the expectations of markets and economic entities."

Thursday, Japanese stocks jumped and the yen sank after the central bank's announcement. The yen weakened 3 percent against the dollar, while Tokyo's Nikkei stock index rose 2.2 percent to 12,634.54.

U.S.-listed shares of Japanese automakers rose sharply, reflecting the belief that a weaker yen would make Japanese vehicles cheaper in markets outside Japan.

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