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Japan’s annual labor negotiations, known colloquially as “Shunto” or the “spring wage offensive,” have culminated in a remarkable outcome this year, with major firms agreeing to a pay increase of 5.28%—the highest in 33 years.

This significant hike, announced by the country’s largest trade union group Rengo, surpasses the previous year’s increase of 3.80%. With wage talks for smaller companies anticipated to wrap up by the end of March, this development is a critical one in the context of monetary policy considerations by BoJ.

This wage growth is likely to be viewed positively by BoJ officials, who are widely expected to be on the verge of ending the long-standing negative interest rate policy. However, the exact timing of such a policy shift, whether it could be announced as soon as next week’s meeting or delayed until April, remains a matter of speculation.

A recent Reuters poll conducted between March 11 and 14 showed that out of 34 economists surveyed, only 12 anticipate a rate hike in the upcoming week. The majority, 21 out of 34, foresee such a move in April.

Those in favor of an April decision point to BoJ’s access to more comprehensive information by then, including results from Tankan survey, insights from branch managers, and a new set of economic projections.

Yet, history has shown that BoJ has a penchant for surprising the markets. This unpredictability serves as a reminder to never rule out the possibility of a sooner move.

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