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Japan's economy faces 'extremely high' uncertainty on pandemic hit - central bank head

By Leika Kihara
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda speaks at a news conference in Tokyo

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) - Uncertainty over Japan's economic outlook is "extremely high" as the coronavirus pandemic hits output and consumption, central bank Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said, stressing his readiness to take additional monetary steps to prevent a deep recession.

While aggressive central bank actions across the globe have eased financial market tensions somewhat, corporate funding strains were worsening, Kuroda told a quarterly meeting of the Bank of Japan's regional branch managers on Thursday.

"The spread of the coronavirus is having a severe impact on Japan's economy through declines in exports, output, demand from overseas tourists and private consumption," he said.

Japan recorded 503 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday - its biggest daily increase since the start of the pandemic - even as a state of emergency took effect, underscoring the difficulty authorities have in trying to contain the outbreak without imposing a sweeping, mandatory lockdown on the population.

Even with less stringent restrictions compared with other countries, analysts polled by Reuters expect Japan to slip into a deep recession this year as the virus outbreak wreaks havoc on business and daily life.

"For the time being, we won't hesitate to take additional monetary easing steps if needed, with a close eye on developments regarding the coronavirus outbreak," Kuroda said.

Kuroda's remarks highlight the strong concern policymakers have over the outlook for Japan's economy and how companies continue to struggle to procure cash, despite government and central bank promises to flood the economy with funds.

At its policy meeting later this month, the BOJ is likely to make a rare projection that the world's third-largest economy will shrink this year, sources have told Reuters.

The BOJ eased monetary policy in March by pledging to boost purchases of assets ranging from government bonds, commercial paper, corporate bonds and trust funds investing in stocks.

The government also rolled out a nearly $1 trillion stimulus package to soften the economic blow.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.


(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Stephen Coates)