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Saturday, Jan. 13, 2007

Fukui hints at rate hike at next BOJ meeting

Staff writer

BOJ Gov. Toshihiko Fukui said Friday that private consumption is "on the increase," fueling speculation the central bank may raise interest rates at its meeting next week.

"Based on a slow increase in employee salaries, private consumption is on the increase, although the pace is slow," Fukui said in remarks to BOJ branch managers in Tokyo.

At a news conference in December after the BOJ's monthly Policy Board meeting, Fukui hinted the members had put a rate hike on hold because private consumption was still weak.

Market watchers are now scrutinizing statements from Fukui and the BOJ for clues on whether a rate rise is imminent.

Fukui said economic growth is likely continue for some time yet due to stronger production and income figures, adding that the central bank will "manage monetary policy in an appropriate manner."

The BOJ's next meeting Policy Board meeting will be held next Wednesday and Thursday. The board's decision will be announced Thursday.

The BOJ's regional economic report, released later Friday, says the economy is expanding in all nine regions surveyed, although the pace of growth differs widely among them.

The report says warm weather hurt sales of winter clothing in Hokkaido, Tohoku and Kyushu and Okinawa. But yearend and New Year's sales were stronger than in the previous year.

Economic assessments for all regions were unchanged from the report last October, the first time this has happened since the central bank began publishing regional reports in April 2005.

Lending rose in 2006

Japanese banks granted a daily average of 384.86 trillion yen in loans in 2006, up 1.2 percent for the first annual rise in 10 years, the Bank of Japan said Friday.

The last increase in the average daily loan balance was 1.0 percent in 1996. The margin of growth was the largest since the BOJ began compiling comparable annual data in 1993.

After adjustment for special factors, the loan balance rose 2.1 percent in 2006, posting its first gain since the central bank made year-on-year data available for comparison in 1999.

Lending is believed to have risen in 2006 thanks to robust corporate capital demand.

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The Japan Times

Article 2 of 6 in Business news

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