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UPDATE 1-Japan bank lending slows as easing pandemic sees big firms pay back loans

    * Bank lending rises 6.4% in September vs 6.7% in August
    * Major banks' lending slows as big firms pay back loans
    * Smaller borrowers continue to rely heavily on lending

 (Adds details, quotes from BOJ briefing)
    By Chris Gallagher and Leika Kihara
    TOKYO, Oct 12 - Japanese bank lending rose at a slower
annual pace in September than the previous month as corporate
funding strains caused by the pandemic eased mainly among big
borrowers, central bank data showed on Monday.
    But lending by regional banks remained high as smaller firms
continued to borrow heavily to meet immediate funding needs, the
data showed, underscoring the lingering economic pain brought by
the health crisis.
    "Big companies that had borrowed huge amounts of funds as a
precaution around spring are now paying back some of the loans
due to easing uncertainty over the pandemic," a BOJ official
told a briefing.
    "But that's not to say conditions have improved. There are
gaps among industries on how much their profits have recovered."
    Total bank lending rose 6.4% in September from the same
month a year earlier, slower than a 6.7% gain in August, to a
record 573.7 trillion yen ($5.43 trillion), Bank of Japan data
showed.
    The pace of lending by major banks slowed to 7.3% in
September from 8.0% in August.
    Lending by regional banks rose 5.3%, roughly unchanged from
the previous month's 5.4% increase. Those by "shinkin" credit
associations, which lend mostly to small firms in regional areas
of Japan, rose 7.8%, the fastest pace on record, the data
showed.
    Bank deposits rose 9.0% in September from a year earlier,
the biggest increase on record, as households held back on
spending and instead saved government pay-outs aimed at
cushioning the blow from the pandemic, the official said.
    ($1 = 105.6300 yen)

 (Reporting by Chris Gallagher and Leika Kihara; Editing by
Jacqueline Wong)
  
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