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Bank of Japan likely to debate additional easing steps in Monday's emergency meeting

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The Bank of Japan is expected to take additional steps to stabilise markets and minimise the economic pain from the coronavirus outbreak in an emergency meeting on Monday, joining other central banks trying to soothe investors' nerves.

[TOKYO] The Bank of Japan is expected to take additional steps to stabilise markets and minimise the economic pain from the coronavirus outbreak in an emergency meeting on Monday, joining other central banks trying to soothe investors' nerves.

Sources familiar with the BOJ's thinking have told Reuters that the Japanese central bank was ready to ramp up asset purchases and take steps to ensure small and midsize companies do not face a shortage of funds ahead of the March 31 fiscal year-end.

The meeting, under way from 12pm (0300 GMT), comes hours after unscheduled interest rate cuts by US and New Zealand central banks aimed at combating the fallout of the virus.

"The meeting is likely to discuss measures to smooth corporate financing and stabilise financial markets," one of the sources said.

Many market players expect the BOJ to ramp up purchases of risky assets such as exchange-traded funds (ETF), corporate bonds and commercial paper to funnel more money to markets and companies via financial institutions.

Deepening negative interest rates is considered a less likely option given the strain already ultra-low rates is inflicting on financial institutions' profits.

Monday's meeting will will replace the scheduled rate review on March 18-19. BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda is expected to hold a news conference after the meeting.

The BOJ's review comes in the wake of the US Federal Reserve's emergency 100-basis point rate cut to near zero on Sunday, which was followed hours later by an unexpected 75 basis point easing by the New Zealand central bank, underscoring policymakers' worries of a world economy unraveling rapidly amid the epidemic.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government will work closely with the BOJ to take "bold, unprecedented" measures to mitigate the pain the epidemic is inflicting on the world's third-largest economy.

Under a policy dubbed yield curve control (YCC), the BOJ guides short-term rates at -0.1 per cent and the 10-year government bond yield around zero. It also buys risky assets such as ETFs.

Japan's core machinery orders unexpectedly rose in January, in a positive sign for business investment though worries remain about the economic outlook in light of the widening fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

REUTERS