Japan's foreign exchange reserves fell for the first time in three months to USD 1.201 trillion at the end of September, down 1.5 percent from the previous month, but remained the world's second-largest, the Finance Ministry said Friday.
The foreign reserves hit a record of USD 1.219 trillion in August when Tokyo conducted a massive currency market intervention to weaken the yen by purchasing dollars.
The drop in foreign exchange reserves, which includes convertible foreign currencies, gold and International Monetary Fund (IMF) special drawing rights, was mainly due to the declining market value of the government's holdings of the euro-dominated assets caused by the depreciation of the euro against the dollar, the ministry said.
A fall in gold prices also helped deflate Japan's reserves. As of September 30, foreign currency reserves stood at USD 1.123 trillion, gold at USD 39.86 billion and IMF reserves at USD 17.29 billion.
The reserves are closely monitored for evidence of how Japanese authorities are managing vast foreign currency holdings, as the actions have significant impact on currency exchange rates and global bond markets, particularly in the US government bond market.
Japan spent JPY 4.513 trillion (USD 58.8 billion) in an independent operation on August 4 to curb a sharp yen rise, its largest-ever currency intervention on a single-day basis. But The Japanese currency hit a postwar high of JPY 75.95 against dollar on Aug. 19.
The Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized nations also conducted on March 18 their first joint intervention since 2000 to aid Japan following the March 11th quake and tsunami as well as accidents at the Fukushima nuclear plant, and Japanese authorities spent JPY 692.5 billion (USD 9.0 billion) for their part.
A stronger yen hurts the nation's export-led economy, which has been gradually recovering from a slump following the March disaster, as it makes Japanese products more expensive abroad.
Japan is the only country with foreign reserves of more than USD one trillion besides China, whose holdings hit a record of USD 3.2 trillion at the end of June, according to the latest comparable data.
China has become the world's biggest holder of foreign reserves since 2006 by overtaking Japan. Russia came third, followed by Taiwan, Brazil, and India. Higher foreign reserves enable Asian countries and regions to more readily defend the value of their currencies.