TOKYO (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady and raised its assessment of the economy on Thursday, as the yen's recent declines and budding signs of recovery in global demand offer some relief to the export-reliant economy.
"Japan's economy appears to be bottoming out," the central bank said in a statement announcing its policy decision.
BOJ board member Ryuzo Miyao proposed continuing the BOJ's policy of keeping interest rates virtually at zero until the central bank's target of 2 percent inflation is in sight. His proposal was voted down 8-1.
As widely expected, the central bank maintained its overnight call rate target at a range of zero to 0.1 percent by a unanimous vote, and held off on expanding its asset buying and lending programme.
BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa, whose term ends on March 19, will hold an embargoed news conference with his comments to come out sometime after 4:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. British time).
The central bank last month doubled its inflation target to 2 percent and made an open-ended commitment to buy assets from next year, under pressure from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to take bolder steps to beat deflation.
(Reporting by Leika Kihara and Stanley White; Editing by Chris Gallagher)