Japan's central bank unveils aggressive stimulus program

Tokyo, Apr 4 (EFE).- The Bank of Japan on Thursday opened a new phase of "quantitative and qualitative" monetary easing in a bid to vanquish the deflation that has plagued the world's No. 3 economy for the better part of two decades.

At the end of its first policy meeting under new Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda, the central bank said the stimulus program is aimed at lifting the country's inflation rate to 2 percent within a span of roughly two years.

Among the new measures, which are similar but even bolder than those taken by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the BOJ said it will "conduct money market operations so that the monetary base will increase at an annual pace of about 60-70 trillion yen (502-586 billion euros)."

Those transactions will nearly double the monetary base - the amount of cash in circulation plus reserves at the BOJ - by the end of 2014.

The steps will include expanding its purchases of Japanese government bonds by 50 trillion yen (more than 418.6 billion euros) per year.

The average remaining maturity on the bank's government-bond purchases will be extended to seven years, up from three years at present.

The BOJ said its current asset-purchase program, until now its main tool to inject liquidity into the Asian nation's financial system, will be replaced by the new debt-buying mechanism.

It also will buy riskier assets, such as exchange-traded funds and real-estate investment trusts.

The BOJ said Thursday that Japan's economy "has stopped weakening and has shown some signs of picking up," adding that "it is expected to return to a moderate recovery path against the background of firm domestic demand and a pick-up in growth rates of overseas economies."