May 24, 2016 / 12:50 AM / a year ago

Japan's net external assets fall for first time in five years, still top creditor

A general view shows a city of Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan, September 4, 2015.Yuya Shino

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's net external assets fell for the first time in five years to 339.26 trillion yen (£2 trillion) at end-2015 as the rising yen bit into the value of overseas holdings, the finance ministry said.

The net value of assets held by the Japanese government, businesses and individuals fell short of 2014's record 366.86 trillion yen but Japan remained the biggest creditor nation for 25 years in a row, it said on Tuesday.

Japan's net external assets were 1.7 times those held by Germany, which took over China as the world's No.2 creditor nation with 195.24 trillion yen in net assets at the end of last year, the ministry said.

Japan's gross external assets rose just 0.7 percent to 948.73 trillion yen, slowing sharply from the prior year's 18.5 percent jump, as the yen's rise against the euro reduced the appraised value of external assets by 17.4 trillion yen, the ministry said.

External debt grew 5.3 percent to 609.47 trillion yen due to increased acquisitions of Japanese equities and other assets by foreign investors.

The dollar largely held steady at 120.42 yen JPY= at the end of 2015, while the euro lost about 10 percent in value to 131.14 yen EURJPY=, the ministry said.

The yen was trading around 110 to the dollar JPY= on Tuesday, having hit an 18-month high above 105 yen this month.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Eric Meijer

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