Japan's central bank keeps its benchmark interest rate unchanged at zero to 0.1%, increases lending facility by 2T yen to total of 5.5T yen to spur growth

TOKYO , March 13, 2012 () – Japan's central bank is allowing companies in disaster-struck areas an extra year to pay back debts and adding more money to lending to encourage growth.

The Bank of Japan at a policy board meeting that ended Tuesday kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at zero to 0.1 percent.

It increased its "growth supporting funding facility" that provides cash to spur growth by 2 trillion yen ($24 billion) to 5.5 trillion yen ($67 billion).

Last year's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which set off a nuclear crisis in northeastern Japan, has set back Japan's recovery from the recession that followed the global financial crisis.

The central bank extended the debt payment deadline by one year at companies in disaster areas to April 30, 2014.

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