(Bloomberg) -- Bank of Japan Board Member Hajime Takata sent a strong signal that the case for ending the negative interest rate policy is gaining momentum, comments that pushed the yen and government bond yields higher.

“There are uncertainties for Japan’s economy but my view is that the price target is finally coming into sight,” Takata said in a speech to local business leaders in Shiga, western Japan Thursday. Japan is “at a juncture for a shift in the entrenched belief that wages and inflation won’t rise,” he said.

Takata added to that message during an afternoon press conference by telling reporters, “It’s fine to shift the gear one notch lower” for monetary policy to be consistent with economic conditions.

Takata also reiterated a message previously conveyed by Governor Kazuo Ueda and Deputy Governor Shinichi Uchida among others that even if the bank ends the negative rate, policy settings would remain accommodative.

“We wouldn’t just keep hiking over and over,” Takata said.

The yen strengthened to 149.76 versus the dollar, the strongest in more than a week, from 150.44 after Takata’s comments as investors positioned for a potential narrowing in the interest rate differential between Japan and the US. Government bond yields also ticked higher. The yen pared gains after Takata pledged to keep policy settings loose.

Overnight swaps are currently pricing in a 34% chance of a rate hike at the BOJ’s March 18-19 gathering. On Wednesday it was 21%.

On the chances for a March policy shift, Takata hedged his views. He told reporters he’d like to think about action at the meeting and the next one in conjunction with his view that the price target is coming into sight.

Read more: BOJ Risks Roiling Markets With Traders Underprepared for March

The comments from Takata, who is seen as a neutral member of the nine-member board, will likely underpin speculation in the market that the bank is poised to conduct Japan’s first rate hike since 2007 in coming months.

The next gathering — in March — may gain traction among BOJ watchers as the likely timing. Most economists bet on the move happening in April in recent surveys.

“We need to consider flexible and nimble steps including for an exit, for instance, the end of the yield curve control framework, negative interest rate and what to do with the overshooting commitment,” Takata said.

Takata’s speech follows Ueda’s remarks last week suggesting growing confidence over the prospects of achieving the stable inflation target even as data showed the economy has fallen into recession.

In a speech in September, Takata twice noted the need for continuing large-scale monetary easing patiently. He made no reference to such needs on Thursday.

(Adds Takata’s comments from afternoon press conference)

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