Japan bank lending, deposits rise despite pandemic problems - GulfToday

Japan bank lending deposits rise despite pandemic problems

Japan Bank

People use ATMs at a railway station in Tokyo. File/Agence France-Presse

Japanese bank lending continued to rise in December to hit a fresh record, data showed on Tuesday, as companies kept piling up cash to weather the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Outstanding loans held by the country’s four main categories of banks, including “shinkin” or credit unions, rose 6.2% in December from a year earlier to a record 577.6 trillion yen ($5.5 trillion), Bank of Japan (BOJ) data showed.

Total deposits at the banks also surged 9.3% to a record 802.9 trillion yen, as some companies parked the money they borrowed in their accounts for the time being, the data showed.

“Some companies were holding back on capital expenditure and cutting fixed costs,” which was also behind the increase in deposits, a BOJ official told a briefing.

Aside from lending, commercial banks were using the money from the huge deposits to increase purchases of short-term securities and government bonds, the official said.

The BOJ eased monetary policy twice last year to cushion the economic blow from COVID-19, including by creating a new lending facility aimed at channeling funds to cash-strapped firms via financial institutions.

While lending by cash-strapped firms has peaked, the government’s decision to impose new state of emergency curbs to prevent the spread of the virus has clouded the outlook for the world’s third-largest economy.

Meanwhile, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei share average inched up to close at a fresh three-decade high on Tuesday, as drug makers led the charge on a report that Chugai Pharmaceutical’s drug was effective in treating COVID-19 patients.

The Nikkei index ended 0.09% higher at 28,164.34 after recovering from early declines, while the broader Topix index edged up 0.16% to 1,857.94.

“Investors bought back stocks as soon as the market started falling, showing the fundamental strength of demand,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, chief market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.

“They also got confidence in the market as US futures rose overnight.”

Chugai Pharmaceutical jumped 5.91% on the drug-effectiveness news, helping boost the drug maker index by 1.68%.

Other companies such as Takeda Pharmaceutical, Eisai, and Shionogi & Co gained between 1.95% and 3.38%.

The COVID-19 treatment news comes at a time when Japan plans to expand its declaration of state of emergency to three western prefectures including Osaka to stem the spread of COVID-19, according to local media.

Among other shares, SoftBank Group gained 1.36% after a fund it manages sold part of its stake in Uber Technologies for $2 billion.

Retail stocks rose, led by a 5.52% rise in Ryohin Keikaku after the Muji retail stores operator posted a 69% jump in quarterly net profit. Lawson rose 2.24%, while Watts Co jumped 10.37%.

Semiconductor shares rose on prospects of stronger chip demand, with Tokyo Electron adding 0.29% and Shin-Etsu Chemical climbing 3.29%.

Bucking the trend, automakers slid after Toyota Motor and Honda Motor said they would cut vehicle production this month due to a shortage of semiconductors.

Toyota fell 0.59% and Honda Motor declined 1.55%.

The underperformers among the Topix 30 were Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp, which was down 2.54%, followed by Seven & i Holdings Co, losing 2.08%.

Yields of Japanese government bonds were flat on Tuesday as concerns about political turmoil in Washington and rising coronavirus cases offset upward pressure on rates due to expectations for large US fiscal stimulus.

Some investors also stayed on the sidelines before an auction of five-year government bonds on Wednesday, and could be an important test of demand for fixed income at the start of the newyear.

Political uncertainty in Washington dominated trading in global equities as House Democrats introduced a resolution to impeach US President Donald Trump, accusing him of inciting insurrection following a violent attack on the Capitol last week.

Benchmark 10-year JGB futures rose 0.04 point to 151.82, with a trading volume of 16,807 lots.

The 10-year JGB yield was flat at 0.035%, but the 20-year JGB yield rose 0.5 basis point to 0.420%.

The 30-year JGB yield was unchanged at 0.645%. The 40-year JGB yield held steady at 0.685%.

At the middle of the yield curve, the five-year yield was unchanged at minus 0.110%.

At the short end, the two-year JGB yield was steady at minus 0.125%.

Separately, Toyota Motor Corporation has halted some of its production lines in China’s Guangzhou City due to a shortage of semiconductors, the Japanese automaker said on Tuesday, the latest case of shortages affecting the automobile industry.

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