The Bank of Japan said the country’s financial system remains stable and growth in bank lending continues to support its economy, signaling that it is comfortable that lenders are coping with its record monetary easing program.
Banks “have maintained their active lending attitudes,” the central bank said in its semi-annual financial system report yesterday. “The financial cycle has shown no signs of overheating as observed during the bubble period in the late 1980s.”
The publication has attracted closer-than-usual scrutiny among the central bank’s watchers for any signs that it might further adjust its policy to alleviate the effect of monetary easing on financial firms.
While there was nothing to suggest that the central bank would change its policy, the report indicates that it is aware of longer-term risks to the banking system, former central bank official Nobuyasu Atago said.
“The report is suggesting that banks need to be cautious about the impacts of any potential economic downturn,” said Atago, now chief economist at Okasan Securities Group Inc in Tokyo.
The central bank kept its assessment that the financial system remains stable “on the whole,” while adding that banks’ core profitability has continued to decrease as the population shrinks, competition intensifies and interest rates stay low.
“For the financial system to maintain stability into the future, financial institutions need to raise their core profitability,” it said.
Among Japan’s 106 regional banks, 54 reported losses in their main business of lending in the year ending in March, and 23 have been losing money on loans for more than five straight fiscal years, a report released last month by the Japanese Financial Services Agency showed.
The central bank highlighted the need for banks to enhance their risk management, particularly in areas where they have taken on more risk, such as real-estate lending, overseas loans and securities investment.
Regional banks, which have been increasing holdings of stock-related investment trusts in the past few years, could incur losses greater than those during the global financial crisis if equities tumble, the central bank said.
While a majority of economists expect the central bank to keep its policy basically unchanged until 2020, they see the chance of more tweaks following adjustments made in July. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda and his board next meet on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
The central bank has set a short-term interest rate at minus-0.1 percent and aims to keep 10-year bond yields at about zero. In July, it pledged to keep rates extremely low for an “extended period” as it seeks to achieve 2 percent inflation, but it also decided to allow a wider range of moves in yields to reduce any adverse effects of massive easing.
“The central bank is mindful of the need to raise 10-year bond yields higher in the long run, but they’re not indicating that it will be any time soon,” Atago said.
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