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Japan’s outstanding balance of net assets abroad came to 133.47 trillion yen at the end of last year, a 57 percent increase from the year before and the second-largest total on record, the Finance Ministry said Friday.

If compared with 1999 data for other industrialized nations, the figure would place Japan top in the world for the 10th year in a row, leaving Switzerland a distant second with the equivalent of 35.51 trillion yen in net overseas assets as of the end of 1999.

Net overseas assets are the excess of assets held abroad by the government and private entities over their liabilities overseas.

The sharp increase came from aggressive investment by financial institutions in foreign bonds, as record-low interest rates and sagging stock prices at home discouraged domestic investment.

The balance of gross assets held by Japan totaled 346.99 trillion yen at the end of 2000, up 12.4 percent, and assets held by Japanese banks in the form of medium- and long-term foreign bonds increased by 13.27 trillion yen, the ministry said in a report on assets and liabilities abroad.

The balance of gross overseas liabilities held by Japan fell 4.6 percent to 213.52 trillion yen, the result of a decline in the value of Japanese stocks held by foreign investors due to sagging stock prices, according to the report.

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