Japan's top three banks have posted lacklustre half-year profit figures as the impact of last year's stock market surge faded and they struggle to boost lending at home.
Mitsubishi UFJ, the country's biggest bank, on Friday said its net profit rose to 578.72 billion yen ($4.99 billion) in the six months to September, a nine percent rise, but well off a more than 80 percent on-year surge in the same period last year.
Rival Mizuho Financial Group said its earnings dropped more than 17 percent to 355.29 billion yen for the six months, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group on Thursday said its net profit shrank to 479.55 billion yen in the first half, down 5.2 percent from a year ago
A stock market surge saw Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index rally 57 percent in 2013 -- its best annual performance in decades.
The rise came as the yen weakened sharply on the back of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies to revive the economy, dubbed "Abenomics," which enticed retail customers into the stock market.
Japanese banks hold vast stock holdings which benefited when overseas investors poured billions of dollars into the long-overlooked market.
But the bank's latest results underline how Japanese lenders have relied on profits linked to securities trading and other market activities rather than bread-and-butter domestic lending, as they struggle to find borrowers despite the Bank of Japan's efforts to pump money into the economy.
Many nervous firms have been sitting on huge cash piles since an April sales tax hike dented economic growth, and all eyes are on third-quarter GDP figures due Monday after a second-quarter contraction.
The lenders may get a boost as government infrastructure plans in the aftermath of the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster as well as new building projects for Tokyo's hosting of the 2020 Olympics stimulate demand for loans.
"We've slightly seen loan demand from the corporate sector, but as a matter of fact, many companies are cash rich," Sumitomo's President Koichi Miyata told a press briefing Thursday.
"A severe environment will likely continue for the time being."
Last month Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda unleashed his second monetary "bazooka" in as many years, saying the central bank would attempt to spur the economy through even more purchases of government bonds, stocks, and other assets.
Kuroda's goal is to generate a steady 2.0 percent inflation rate, a cornerstone of Tokyo's broader bid to defeat years of deflation that held back growth.
The additional easing has boosted Japanese shares after a downturn following last year's sizzling run.
On Friday, the Nikkei index posted its best close since July 2007 at 17,490.83.
-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to the report.