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Mitsubishi UFJ leads Japan banks' profit surge

TOKYO--Japan 's biggest bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group said Monday its nine-month net profit soared more than 47 percent to US$7.7 billion as the country's lenders cashed in on a soaring stock market.

The lender was the last of Japan's so-called megabanks to report its April-December results, with the buoyant figures mirroring smaller rivals Mizuho Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group last week.

Mitsubishi's earnings come despite a high-profile mob loans scandal, which badly dented the sector's reputation but has apparently had little impact on profits.

The trio saw gains in their stock trading businesses as the Japanese market boomed in 2013, while the value of their extensive domestic equity holdings also surged.

Overseas investors poured billions of dollars into Tokyo stocks last year as a government policy blitz helped push down the value of the yen, giving a boost to exporters' bottom line.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index surged 57 percent last year, its best annual run in more than four decades.

Mitsubishi — which said it earned 785.42 billion yen (US$7.7 billion) in April-December and was on track to earn 910 billion yen in the fiscal year to March — saw an increase in its loans business, while it cut down the amount of bad debt on its books.

The lenders have generally seen their mainline banking business booking healthy gains, offsetting a slump in bond-trading, a key profit driver in recent years.

“On the back of the economic recovery, major banks have been seeing their main banking businesses remain steady while their burden of bad loans has been coming down,” said Yoshihiro Okumura, general manager for research at Chibagin Asset Management.

“The sector looks to remain steady because capital investment and construction is due to pick up partly due to the Tokyo Olympics” in 2020.

But a pullback in the Japanese market since the start of the year may squeeze banks' profits, Okumura added.

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