TOKYO - The Bank of Japan is unlikely to raise interest rates for "quite some time" and recent steps to make policy more flexible are not preparation for policy normalisation, Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in an interview published on Saturday.
The BOJ pledged in July to keep interest rates "extremely low" for an extended period and adjusted policy so it could buy stocks and bonds more flexibly, including allowing the 10-year government bond yield to move in a slightly wider band around zero percent.
Economists polled by Reuters soon afterwards said this meant the central bank was laying the groundwork for an eventual exit from its massive stimulus but most said the move would not happen soon.
Kuroda told the Yomiuri Shimbun daily that any change in the BOJ's interest rate policy remains distant.
"There is no thought about raising (rates) for quite some time," he was quoted by the paper as saying, without giving further details except to say that there is currently no specific time span in mind.
"As long as uncertainties remain, the commitment is to maintain the current low rates," he said, citing a planned consumption tax hike in October 2019 as one uncertainty among others he did not list.
Despite five years of massive asset buying and ultra-low rates under Kuroda, the BOJ remains far from achieving its 2 percent inflation target.
However, when asked if this target will be met during Kuroda's term, which ends in 2023, he was quoted as saying "of course".
"The economy has improved and the labour market is tight. If you think according to common sense, (inflation) would reach the mid-one percent level in 2020. Barring some huge change that stops this upward move, I believe we'll reach it," he said.
Former BOJ board member Koji Ishida told Reuters in August that Japan's healthy economic growth should allow the central bank to whittle down its stimulus programme even before inflation hits 2 percent.
Another former board member said that the BOJ's July decision to make its policy more flexible was more than just a tweak and that it could take further steps to normalise policy later this year.