Japan has retained its position as the world's top creditor nation in 2011, a title it has held on to for the past 21 years. According to data released by the Ministry of Finance, Japan held a net 253 trillion yen ($3.19 trilion) in foreign assets at the end of 2011, a 2 trillion yen increase from the previous year.
The data may help ease worries in Japan that China might soon surpass it as the world's largest creditor nation, further eclipsing Tokyo's presence in the global economy.
In 2010, Japan ceded its spot as the world's second largest economy to China, and in 2006 slipped into second place behind Beijing in terms of size of foreign reserves.
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One of the main factors leading to Japan's top creditor status can be attributed to an increase in Japanese banks' lending overseas and expanded foreign reserves created by Japan's intervention in the currency market.
The Ministry of Finance reports that at the end of 2011, Japan's total foreign assets reached 582 trillion yen, up 3.3 percent from a year earlier, rising for the third consecutive year.
Japan's foreign reserves rose to 100.5 trillion yen, up by 11.1 trillion yen, as a result of the government's intervention in the currency market to curb the safe-haven yen's sharp rise and potential harm to the export-dependent economy.
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China, the world's second-largest creditor nation, had net foreign assets of 137.9 trillion yen at the end of 2011, the ministry said, citing data from the International Monetary Fund. Based on previous Japanese data, Chinese net foreign assets nearly tripled to 236.2 trillion yen during the four years through 2009.
According to a finance ministry official, one possible reason for China's slowing growth may be a shrinking Chinese trade surplus.
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Coming in third, Germany was the world's third largest creditor nation and the eurozone's largest creditor in 2011.