The balance of Japan’s net external assets stood at 180.7 trillion yen at the end of 2005, down 2.7 percent from a year earlier, declining for the first time in two years, the Finance Ministry said Friday.

Despite falling from the record 185.8 trillion yen logged a year earlier, Japan remained the world’s largest holder of external assets for the 15th straight year, the ministry said, based on the most recent comparable data from the International Monetary Fund.

The figure, the second-highest on record, compares with 48.85 trillion yen in net assets held by Switzerland, and 44.23 trillion yen held by Hong Kong. The figures for Switzerland and Hong Kong are as of Dec. 31, 2004.

The balance of net external assets is equal to the total value of overseas loans and other assets held by the Japanese government, firms and individuals, minus the value of such assets held in Japan by foreigners.

The Finance Ministry reported the balance of Japan’s external assets stood at a record 506.19 trillion yen on last Dec. 31, up 16.7 percent from a year earlier.

The rise in 2005 stemmed from increased purchases by Japanese nationals of foreign securities, and gains in the yen value of foreign currency-denominated assets due to a weaker yen.

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