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Bank of Japan cuts inflation, economic growth forecasts

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Tokyo (AFP)

Japan will fail to reach its two-percent inflation target even by 2022, the central bank predicted on Thursday as it also revised down its estimate for growth in the world's third-largest economy.

In its closely watched quarterly report, the Bank of Japan forecast inflation of 1.6 percent in the fiscal year ending March 2022, meaning its years-long battle to reignite prices is far from won.

The BoJ revised down its inflation forecast for the year to March 2021 to 1.3 percent from 1.4 percent.

Japanese inflation currently stands below one percent, less than halfway to target, despite six years of aggressive monetary stimulus under BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda.

The central bank kept its ultra-loose monetary policy in place after a two-day policy board meeting but added a fresh timeframe, saying the "extremely low" rates would be maintained "at least through around spring 2020".

It cited global economic uncertainties and the risks of a scheduled hike in consumption tax later this year from eight percent to 10 percent.

Economic growth would also come in at 0.8 percent this fiscal year, climbing to 0.9 percent the year after -- both downward revisions of 0.1 percentage points.

It forecast GDP at 1.2 percent in the fiscal year ending in 2022.

Kuroda has come under fire over the effectiveness of his monetary easing programme and how he intends to return the bank's policy to normal.

In 2013, the BoJ embarked on a huge bond-buying programme in a bid to stimulate long-dormant prices with the stated aim of hitting the two percent mark within two years.

But while the plan -- which ran in tandem with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's big-spending drive to ramp up the economy -- showed early promise, the bank has been forced to delay several times the date for hitting its target.

In January, Kuroda was forced to revise down the BoJ's inflation forecasts, a step seen as further evidence that authorities are unable to boost prices.

Other central banks have been gradually taking more guarded views on the global economy, with minutes of the US Federal Reserve's policy meeting last month showing board members split between optimism and caution.

Kuroda is due to speak later Thursday.

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