BOJ Ups Stimulus in Busy Week for World’s Biggest Central Banks
U.S. ten dollar bills and ten euro banknotes are arranged for a photograph. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

BOJ Ups Stimulus in Busy Week for World’s Biggest Central Banks

(Bloomberg) -- Global central banks remain under pressure to do more to support their economies through the coronavirus recession even after driving interest rates to record lows and pledging to spend trillions of dollars on asset purchases.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan and European Central Bank, which together cover almost half of global output, all convene meetings of policy makers this week after the pandemic-driven freezing of economies and turmoil in financial markets propelled them into action.

The BOJ set the tone Monday by scrapping a limitation on buying government bonds and ramped up its purchases of corporate debt.

With governments this week set to confirm multi-year expansions ended in the U.S. and euro area in the first quarter, monetary policy makers may have to do more to limit the recession and speed the recovery. Among the options: extending quantitative easing, helping ease credit to troubled businesses and committing to rock-bottom rates for longer.

BOJ Ups Stimulus in Busy Week for World’s Biggest Central Banks

“The extremity of the virus crisis is forcing central banks to push the limits of the possible,” said Tom Orlik, chief economist at Bloomberg Economics. “We expect the ECB to expand its fire fighting Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme. Ahead of the game in terms of the size and scope of stimulus, the Fed won’t add additional support, but will confirm it has space to do more.”

Federal Reserve

The April 28-29 policy meeting will be the first scheduled gathering since January, but officials have met multiple times since then.

They have cut rates to virtually zero and rolled out a series of emergency and unorthodox lending facilities designed to backstop markets and keep credit flowing to businesses. The Fed’s balance sheet has already reached $6.57 trillion.

Economists in a Bloomberg survey have limited expectations for any substantial changes at this week’s meeting. Large majorities, 90% and 87%, said they didn’t expect policy makers to offer any additional guidance on how long they intend to keep rates near zero, or on the future pace of large-scale asset purchases.

BOJ Ups Stimulus in Busy Week for World’s Biggest Central Banks

But investors will be looking for any indications from Chairman Jerome Powell on how deep the Fed fears the recession will go and its outlook for recovery

The central bankers are also still being lobbied to do more as they try to get their Main Street lending program up and running. There are calls from some lawmakers to allow more cities and small counties to borrow from it.

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European Central Bank

The European Central Bank sets policy on Thursday with a heavy weight on its shoulders as governments argue over joint fiscal action.

After President Christine Lagarde told leaders last week that they may have done too little, too late, and warning that the euro-area economy could shrink as much as 15% this year, they still failed to agree on how to structure a recovery fund.

BOJ Ups Stimulus in Busy Week for World’s Biggest Central Banks

Most economists expect the central bank will keep monetary policy on hold this week. It only recently pledged to bump up its asset purchases by more than a trillion euros this year, and made it easier for banks to finance their loans to companies.

But one in four respondents to a Bloomberg survey said the ECB could still boost the size of its pandemic purchase program from 750 billion euros ($812 billion) as early as Thursday. Most see it happening by September.

Having agreed last week to accept junk bonds as collateral for bank loans, there is also speculation is will add sub-investment grade assets to its purchase plan list.

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Bank of Japan

After stepping up its buying of exchange-traded funds and corporate bond, the Bank of Japan on Monday announced unlimited government bond purchases, replacing a previous guideline of around 80 trillion yen ($750 billion) per year.

The change by Governor Haruhiko Kuroda and fellow policy makers removes a possible limit on buying at a time when the government will issue new bonds to fund record-breaking stimulus.

BOJ Ups Stimulus in Busy Week for World’s Biggest Central Banks

A move to do more to support lending to businesses had been expected, and the BOJ also expanded access to its emergency loan program to a wider range of banks. On top of that, it increased its ceiling on holdings of corporate bonds and commercial paper, giving it more scope to buy both.

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Elsewhere in the world economy this week:

BOJ Ups Stimulus in Busy Week for World’s Biggest Central Banks
  • Rate decisions also scheduled in Kazakhstan, Hungary, Sweden, Georgia, Kenya, Botswana, Dominican Republic, Colombia and Guatemala
  • First-quarter GDP data for the U.S., euro area, France, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Taiwan, Belgium, Austria, Latvia and Lithuania
  • PMI reports for China
  • Don’t miss Bloomberg Economics’ previews for the U.S., EMEA, Asia and Latin America

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