TOKYO (Reuters) – The total amount of money circulating in Japan rose at the slowest annual pace in 19 months in November, as firms and households saw less need to hoard cash with the economy emerging from the initial shock caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
The data underscores how Japan’s economy is normalising from last year’s pandemic crunch, and will likely be among data the Bank of Japan will scrutinise in debating next week whether to phase out pandemic-relief fund schemes.
Japan’s M2 money stock, a measure on the total amount of money available in the economy, rose 4.0% in November from a year earlier, Bank of Japan data showed on Thursday, slowing from a 4.2% gain in October. It was the smallest annual increase since a 3.7% gain in April last year.
The average amount of cash, at 1,175.8 trillion yen ($10.34 trillion), hit a fresh record, as the central bank continued to print money to cushion the economic blow from the pandemic.
“The balance of money stock remains at historical levels with the slowdown largely a reaction to last year’s surge. There’s no big change in the uptrend (in money stock),” a BOJ official told a briefing.
The BOJ ramped up purchases of corporate bonds and commercial paper, and introduced a loan scheme aimed at channelling funds to small firms via financial institutions last year to combat a cash crunch caused by the pandemic.
The recent spread of the Omicron new variant complicates the BOJ’s decision, expected to be made as early as next week’s rate review, on whether to phase out the programmes when they reach their current deadline in March 2022.
($1 = 113.7300 yen)
(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Sam Holmes)