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The February balance of bank loans slipped to a record low 415.92 trillion yen, down 4.8 percent from a year ago, the Bank of Japan said Monday.

The balance, which marked the 62nd straight month of decline, was at the lowest level since July 1991, when the central bank began compiling the data, the BOJ said in a preliminary report.

The data cover banks with nationwide networks, known as city banks, as well as trust banks, regional banks and second-tier regional banks.

Adjusted for special factors — loan securitization, exchange-rate fluctuations and the allocation of loan-loss reserves — the balance fell 2.5 percent to 425.86 trillion yen in February, off for the 53rd straight month, the BOJ said.

BOJ officials have attributed the loan-balance contraction chiefly to sluggish corporate demand amid the prolonged bout of deflation.

The latest credit contraction began to emerge in 1997 after the collapse of Yamaichi Securities Co. and Hokkaido Takushoku Bank.

On an unadjusted basis, the overall loan balance in February, including the balance of loans by “shinkin” savings and loan banks, skidded to a record low 478.59 trillion yen, down 4.4 percent and off for the 26th consecutive month.

The central bank began releasing statistics on the overall balance in January 2001. The February number was the lowest since the BOJ began compiling the data.

The unadjusted balance at city banks and trust banks fell 7.5 percent to 240.82 trillion yen, and that at regional banks dropped 0.3 percent to 131.89 trillion yen.

The balance at second-tier regional banks was down 1.7 percent to 43.21 trillion yen, and that at shinkin banks fell 2.2 percent to 62.67 trillion yen.

The daily balance of real deposits and certificates of deposit at city banks, regional banks and second-tier regional banks rose 1.7 percent in February to 476.54 trillion yen, the BOJ said.

The outstanding balance of commercial paper at the end of February rose 3.41 percent to 22.50 trillion yen.

The balance of lending at foreign banks operating in Japan fell 13.7 percent to 6.98 trillion yen.

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