Some LDP Members Oppose BOJ Rate Hikes Ahead of Political Events

(Bloomberg) -- A small sampling of lawmakers from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party indicates there’s political opposition to a Bank of Japan interest rate hike over the next few months.

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All 10 LDP officials queried about their views of monetary policy said it’s too soon for the BOJ to lift interest rates after its March 19 decision to end its zero rate policy, and the conditions for a second move won’t be right for months to come as the nation approaches important political decisions including an LDP leadership election in September.

That’s a change from last month, when the BOJ faced no apparent opposition in advance of its decision to increase interest rates for the first time since 2007.

Shoji Nishida, an upper house lawmaker, called the possibility of further interest rate hikes in July or September “impossible,” saying that smaller companies don’t have the financial means to withstand higher borrowing costs.

Nishida, who serves as the head of the ruling party’s fiscal policy review headquarters, said expectations among some economists that the BOJ could move early are counter-productive, as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida needs to focus on boosting real demand in the economy.

Kishida’s cabinet’s approval ratings, while improving modestly in some polls, have failed to break out of the perceived danger zone below 30%. With voters still angry about the funding scandal, the LDP is facing headwinds in a by-election in Shimane this weekend. It’s one of three lower-house special elections to be held on April 28, and the only district in which the LDP is fielding a candidate.

Some 41% of economists surveyed by Bloomberg earlier this month forecast that the BOJ will conduct a second increase in October, with another 19% predicting the next hike will come in July.

Kishida hasn’t indicated when he might dissolve the House of Representatives and call for a general election. He could still do so during the current Diet session, scheduled to end in June, or immediately after the LDP presidential election.

Politics could complicate the case for a move later this year, according to Eiji Dohke, chief bond strategist at SBI Securities.

The September BOJ meeting is too close to the time when the LDP will hold its leadership vote. “Doesn’t that make it bad timing politically?” he said.

As for October, there’s a possibility that the LDP will dissolve parliament, making it difficult to raise rates with an election looming, as the impact on mortgages would hit LDP support.

“If we can’t hike in July, it would be hard to raise this year,” he said.

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