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) -- The Bank of Japan left its overnight call rate at 0.1%, as expected, and said Japan's economy has started to "pick up," the second upgrade of economic assessment in as many months.

"Japan's economy has started to pick up," the BOJ said in a statement. "Public investment has been increasing, and exports and production have also been rising against a backdrop of progress in inventory adjustments both at home and abroad as well as a recovery in overseas economies, especially emerging economies.

"In these circumstances, business sentiment, especially at large manufacturing firms, is showing some improvement."

BOJ board members voted unanimously to keep the key interest rate unchanged.

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Stocks in Japan were trading slightly lower following the release of the news.

-- Reported by Joseph Woelfel in New York


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