The net value of assets held by the government, businesses and individuals stood at 328 trillion yen ($3 trillion) at the end of 2017 - down 2.3 percent from the year before and compared with 2014's record 363 trillion yen, the ministry said.
Japan's net external assets were about 1.3 times those held by Germany, who overtook China as the world's No.2 creditor nation with 261 trillion yen in net assets at the end of last year, the ministry said.
Japan's gross external assets rose 2.7 percent to a record 1,012 trillion yen as increase in Japanese direct investment overseas and foreign stock investment more than offset drops in the appraised yen value of foreign currency-denominated assets.
Japan's direct investment in the United States reached a record 55 trillion yen at the end of 2017, up about 2 trillion yen from a year earlier, making it the most popular destination that accounts for a third of overall Japanese direct investment overseas.
Overall external debt grew 5.2 percent to 684 trillion yen - also a record amount - due to increased acquisitions of Japanese bonds by foreign investors and rises in Japanese share prices.
The dollar lost 3.8 percent in value to 112.65 yen at the end of 2017 from a year earlier, while the euro rose 9.4 percent to 135.07 yen, the ministry said. - Reuters
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