The Bank of Japan (BoJ) on Friday announced further monetary easing measures in its latest bid to halt the damaging spiral of deflation that has plagued the economy for years. The central bank said it would increase its asset purchase programme by 5 trillion yen ($62 billion) to about 70 trillion yen. It also said its policy board had voted unanimously to keep its key interest rate unchanged at between zero and 0.1 per cent. The BoJ also said it will expand its purchases of government bonds to those with longer maturities. “The bank decided to increase the outstanding amount of the (asset purchase) programme to about 70 trillion yen by around end-June 2013,” a statement said. The bank was already committed to boosting its asset purchase warchest to 65 trillion yen. The latest easing move is yet another salvo in Japan’s ongoing battle with the deflation that has had a stranglehold on its economy for years. Figures released on Friday showed prices rose just 0.2 per cent on year in March, almost solely due to rocketing energy prices around the world. While seemingly good news for individual consumers, falling prices are bad for the economy as a whole because they encourage shoppers to put off purchases in the hope they will pay even less for goods in the future. This cuts into corporate profits and stops firms investing in capital and employees because they are unable to see future demand. Last month, the Bank almost doubled a loan programme to 5 trillion yen amid reconstruction efforts seen as crucial to reviving the economy, which was hammered by last year’s quake-tsunami disaster and flooding in Thailand. The central bank has been forced to resort to the unconventional measure as its ability to free up money has been limited since interest rates were cut to zero to 0.1 per cent at the end of 2008 during the global financial crisis. The BoJ said it “expects that, together with the cumulative effects of earlier policy measures, today’s decision to further enhance monetary easing will better ensure the return of Japan’s economy to a sustainable growth path with price stability”.