LENDING & CREDIT | Cesar Tordesillas, Japan

Japan bank lending up for 4th straight month

Aided by steady demand for business funds in areas hit by the massive March earthquake, Japanese bank lending grew 0.7 percent in January from a year earlier to 396.73 trillion yen

This is its fourth straight monthly increase.

After adjustment for special factors -- loan securitization, exchange rate fluctuations and the allocation of loan-loss reserves -- the loan balance increased 0.9 percent, said the Bank of Japan.

"We are seeing a lending increase slowly as a trend," a BOJ official said, adding that the rise was also supported by lending to electric power companies, which need funds to buy fuel for expanded thermal power generation in the aftermath of last year's nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

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