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The outstanding balance of financial assets held by households at the end of March hit its lowest level in five years, due largely to stock market declines blamed on the global financial crisis, the Bank of Japan said Wednesday.

The balance as determined by the central bank’s quarterly survey fell 3.7 percent from a year earlier to ¥1.410 quadrillion for the sixth consecutive quarter of decline, providing the latest evidence that the fallout from the financial crisis has reached households.

It was the second-worst decline as of March 31 — the end of the fiscal year — since the BOJ began compiling data in 1979. The largest drop was a 5.1 percent fall marked at the end of fiscal 2007.

The balance of shares and other equities plunged 33.5 percent to ¥79.66 trillion for the sixth losing quarter in a row. The balance of investment trusts fell 25.1 percent to ¥47.24 trillion for the fifth straight quarter of decline.

Individual assets held in cash and deposits rose 1.4 percent to ¥786.50 trillion, increasing for the ninth consecutive quarter and underscoring that households favor having their money on hand or keeping it in banks rather than invested in capital markets.

At private-sector companies, excluding banks and other financial institutions, the balance of financial assets fell 14.6 percent to ¥743.74 trillion, the lowest level for a March in six years.

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