Clouds Lifting for Japan’s Banks as Negative Rates Stay Put

The Bank of Japan’s decision not to drag interest rates further below zero provides relief for the nation’s banks after shrinking lending profits crimped first-quarter earnings. Combined net income at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and its two megabank peers fell 28 percent from a year earlier to 505.8 billion yen ($4.9 billion) in the three months ended June 30, the first full quarter under negative rates. Their net interest income slid 15 percent as the BOJ’s policy squeezed margins on loans and income from securities investments. Bank shares rallied following the BOJ’s announcement on Friday, with the Topix Banks Index having the biggest two-day gain since February after central bank Governor Haruhiko Kuroda also ordered a review of its policies. The industry group had been the worst performer in Japan this year as investors worried that the monetary authority would deepen negative rates even after facing criticism over the policy’s impact on bank profits.

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