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Japan’s net foreign assets grew in 2009 to a record ¥266.22 trillion at the end of the year as investments in stocks and bonds abroad expanded and the yen’s weakening helped increase the value of overseas investments, the Finance Ministry said Tuesday.

Net foreign assets at the end of December were 18.1 percent higher than a year before, rising for the first time in two years. The previous record was ¥250.22 trillion at the end of 2007.

Japan remained the world’s largest holder of net foreign assets for the 19th consecutive year.

Finance Minister Naoto Kan, however, expressed concern Tuesday about a decline in foreign investments in Japanese markets.

“It is desirable for Japanese funds to flow abroad, and so it is for (overseas) funds to come in (to Japan),” Kan said. “We cannot take only delight (in that result).”

Net foreign assets are the sum of gross foreign assets — direct and other investments made overseas by Japanese companies and individuals — minus gross foreign liabilities — direct and other investments made in Japan by foreign companies and individuals.

Kan suggested Japan needs to put its economy back on a growth track to lure foreign investors.

“We need to rebuild the fundamentals and I believe it is one of the missions for the Hatoyama administration after it achieved a change of government (last September),” he said.

The ministry said gross foreign assets totaled ¥554.83 trillion at the end of 2009, up 6.9 percent from a year earlier, while gross foreign liabilities fell 1.7 percent to ¥288.60 trillion.

In 2009, the yen dropped 2.0 percent against the dollar, according to the ministry.

International Monetary Fund data, which do not include figures for Taiwan or Middle Eastern nations, indicate China was the second-largest holder of net foreign assets, with ¥167.73 trillion, followed by Germany with ¥118.86 trillion.

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