Japan holds top creditor-nation spot for 17th year

TOKYO, May 23 (Reuters) - Japan’s net external assets rose to a new record high in 2007, government data showed on Friday, making it the world’s largest creditor nation for the 17th year running.

Japan’s overseas assets rose 9.4 percent from a year earlier to a record 610.492 trillion yen ($5,862 billion) last year as domestic investors put more money into foreign assets, Ministry of Finance data showed.

Domestic investors bought a net 58.9 trillion yen worth of foreign assets, mainly in securities. But a higher yen is estimated to have slashed the value of their holdings by about 8.3 trillion yen.

Japanese liabilities abroad stood at 360.271 trillion yen, up 5.0 percent from the previous year.

Foreign investors picked up a net 32.4 trillion yen worth of assets in Japan, while a fall in Japanese share prices is estimated to have reduced the value of their holdings by 12.7 trillion yen.

As a result, Japan’s net external assets rose 16.3 percent to a record 250.221 trillion yen, increasing for the second year in a row.

Japan’s net external assets far exceed those of Germany, the world’s second-largest creditor according to International Monetary Fund data, although Taiwan and some Middle East nations do not release comparable data.

Germany held 107.57 trillion yen worth of net external assets at the end of 2007.

China had net external assets of 78.75 trillion yen as of the end of 2006, more than double the 33.91 trillion yen assets it held at the end of 2005, according to the latest IMF data available.

The yen rose 4.9 percent against the dollar last year, while it declined 6.0 percent against the euro. ($1=104.12 Yen) (Reporting by Yuzo Saeki, Editing by Michael Watson)