BOJ Sees Omicron as Potential Reason to Keep Covid Aid
(Bloomberg) -- Uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant is making some Bank of Japan officials see increased risk in ending or scaling back a Covid funding program set to expire in March, people familiar with the matter said.
While credit conditions for big firms have improved along with the market for corporate bonds and commercial paper, it may be risky to announce a reduction in support now, the people said. The new variant has fueled concern over the economic outlook and shaken financial markets, they said.
Moves in the markets, virus case numbers and economic data including this month’s Tankan survey will guide the bank in making a decision, which could come at the end of its next meeting on Dec. 17, the people said.
The BOJ’s Covid aid program includes support to banks that lend to crisis-hit businesses, along with expanded purchases of corporate bonds and commercial paper, which the bank had already been buying in smaller amounts.
If financial market hadn’t been roiled by the new variant, the BOJ would have had an easier time deciding to lower their limit on corporate debt purchases, as long as the Tankan showed big firms were comfortable in their ability to raise funds, the people said.
Still, the people said there would be little downside to keeping the whole crisis program in place for longer and it could continue to provide relief.
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