Yen rises in Asia after BoJ holds fire on new easing

TOKYO- The yen ticked up in Asia on Wednesday as the Bank of Japan held off fresh monetary easing measures, despite fears that Japan’s recovery is faltering on the back of tepid data and a recent sales tax rise.

In afternoon Tokyo trade, the dollar weakened to 102.37 yen, down from 102.64 yen in New York on Tuesday.

The euro was also weaker at $1.3805 and 141.41 yen, from $1.3811 and 141.75 yen in New York.

Investors were now looking to comments from BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda at 3:30 pm local time (0630 GMT).

The central bank is also set to release its semi-annual report on economic growth and prices, which will be seen as a key measure of whether the BoJ still thinks it can reach a 2.0 percent inflation rate target by next year.

Kuroda has stuck to the ambitious timeline — and said he would expand the asset-buying plan if necessary — despite growing doubts among analysts.

The BoJ’s outlook report was widely expected to keep its core consumer price index forecast for fiscal 2015 at 1.9 percent growth and fiscal 2016 outlook likely to be set around 2.0 percent growth.

If the current inflation forecast for 2014 is revised up from the current 1.3 percent, that “would be a big surprise” which would reduce the likelihood of further easing and support the yen, said Yunosuke Ikeda, head of FX strategy at Nomura Securities.

But a downgrade to the economic growth forecast could spark speculation of further easing, analysts said.

“The BoJ outlook report will likely show its inflation target of 2.0 percent can be reached, but real GDP growth is weaker than the BoJ’s outlook,” said Kengo Suzuki, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities.

Overnight, the dollar rose against the euro after prices in Germany declined month-over-month, renewing concerns about low inflation in the eurozone.

Traders were also looking ahead to the conclusion later Wednesday of the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting and an initial estimate of US gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first three months of the year.

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee was expected to announce the central bank will cut $10 billion from its monthly bond-purchase stimulus, bringing it to $45 billion.

The FOMC was virtually certain to keep its key interest rate near zero, where it has been for more than five years.