UPDATE 1-BOJ debated merits of bigger yield moves ahead of March review

* Allowing 10-yr yield to move more will help financial system

* Bigger long-term rate moves won’t hurt economy – Jan mtg summary

* Comments show BOJ warming to idea of wider band for yield target

* Tweaks to BOJ’s ETF buying also to feature at March review (Recasts to add opinions from Jan summary, context on March review)

TOKYO, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Bank of Japan policymakers discussed the merits of allowing long-term yields to move more flexibly around the bank’s target, a summary of opinions at their January meeting showed, a sign the idea will be a key element of its policy review in March.

As the coronavirus pandemic forces it to maintain a massive stimulus programme for a prolonged period, the BOJ plans to announce in March ways to make its tools more sustainable.

“With our monetary easing steps to be prolonged, allowing the 10-year government bond yield to move upward and downward to some extent … will contribute to financial system stability,” said one member, according to the summary released on Friday.

Allowing 10-year yields to move more widely likely won’t hurt the economy much, because most money raised by households and companies aren’t directly affected by long-term rate moves, another opinion quoted in the summary showed.

The comments are the strongest hints to date that the BOJ will allow long-term rates to deviate further from its 0% target in its March policy review.

“It’s crucial for the BOJ to conduct yield curve control and purchases of assets such as exchange-traded funds (ETF) more flexibly,” another opinion showed, suggesting the March review will also result in some tweaks to its huge ETF purchases.

Under yield curve control (YCC), the BOJ guides short-term rates at -0.1% and 10-year bond yields around 0% through huge bond purchases. It also pledges to buy ETFs by up to 12 trillion yen ($115 billion) per year as part of its stimulus programme.

The measures have recently drawn criticism for drying up market liquidity and distorting pricing, forcing the BOJ to unveil in December a plan to examine ways to make its tools more “flexible and effective.”

The BOJ has said the review won’t lead to an overhaul of YCC or quantitative easing. Analysts expect the outcome to be a mix of measures to ensure the BOJ can act flexibly to any future shock to the economy.

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