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Cabinet ministers urged the nation’s major banks Tuesday to make further restructuring efforts to improve their financial health.

“It is important for banks to be well aware of their responsibility” when promoting restructuring, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference.

He said the banks’ earnings reports, released Monday, show they have been steadily promoting the disposal of nonperforming loans.

Japan’s major banks said the combined outstanding balance of their bad loans as of the end of the fiscal first half through Sept. 30 fell 10.1 percent from the March 31 end of fiscal 2001 to 24.4 trillion yen as they accelerated bad-loan disposals.

The banks also announced steps to boost their restructuring efforts, which include payroll cuts and reductions in the number of branch offices, to regain the confidence of the public and markets about their financial health.

Financial Services Minister Heizo Takenaka said he hopes the banks will further restructure.

“Only these management efforts will help strengthen the banks,” Takenaka told a separate news conference.

Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa said banks had refrained from active restructuring but have now started acting out of concern that the government could intervene in their management.

Takenaka also said the Financial Services Agency has been studying all the possibilities on how to deal with life insurers’ guaranteed yields.

“The agency has been studying a variety of issues on life insurers,” Takenaka said. “All the measures have advantages and disadvantages.”

There have been news reports that the FSA plans to allow life insurance companies to reduce the investment returns they have promised to policyholders to prevent them from going bankrupt amid the deteriorating investment environment.

On Monday, FSA Commissioner Shokichi Takagi said no specific direction has been set on the issue.

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