LOS ANGELES – The Bank of Japan left its economic views unchanged on Wednesday, while also keeping its policy interest rate and asset-purchase program steady, as widely expected. The economic assessment, which described Japan as continuing "to recover moderately" remained the same for the fifth meeting in a row, according to a tally from Dow Jones Newswires. Some of the numerical forecasts were tweaked slightly, with the policy board now indicating a median economic growth forecast of 1.4% for fiscal 2014, compared to October's median projection of 1.5%. The central bank did mention the effect from plans to increase the national sales tax in April -- the first of a two-step hike -- as resulting in "a front-loaded increase in demand" as people and companies seek to make purchases ahead of the move. Attention now turns to the post-meeting news briefing, led by Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda, due later in the day. Reacting to the statement, Kim Eng Securities strategist Andrew Sullivan noted "no mention of any exit strategy/plan, which will be taken as negative by some. We wait now for the [Kuroda] press conference to see if there is any more color." The Japanese yen at first held steady after the announcement but then began creeping higher, with the dollar buying �104.20, down slightly from �104.34 just ahead of the statement. The Tokyo Stock Exchange's Nikkei Average was on break as the Bank of Japan issued the statement, having ended the morning session flat, and it traded 0.2% lower when the market reopened about 10 minutes later.
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