Japan's foreign exchange reserves hit a new record of USD 1.136 trillion at the end of April for the second straight monthly increase, up USD 19.52 billion from March, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.
The previous record was USD 1.118 trillion logged at the end of October 2010, when Japan bought dollars to stem the yen's surge.
The growth in Japan's reserves was mainly attributed to valuation gains in the government's holdings of the euro-dominated assets in the wake of the appreciation of the euro against the US dollar, as foreign reserve value is calculated in dollars, the ministry said.
Lower interest rates worldwide, which drove bond prices higher, also inflated Japan's foreign reserve assets.
Japan's foreign exchange reserves consist of securities and deposits denominated in foreign currencies plus the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reserve positions, IMF special drawing rights and gold. As of April 30, foreign currency reserves stood at USD 1.058 trillion, gold at USD 37.78 billion and IMF reserves at USD 18.86 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. On March 18, G-7 nations conducted their first joint intervention since 2000 to aid Japan following the March 11 quake and tsunami as well as accidents at the Fukushima nuclear plant, and Japanese authorities spent JPY 692.5 billion (USD 8.6 billion) for their part. The yen hit a record JPY 76.25 against the dollar before the intervention.
Japan is the only country with foreign reserves of more than USD 1 trillion besides China, whose holdings hit a record of USD 3.04 trillion at the end of March, 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.