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Japan Considers Stock Market Assistance

May 8, 2003

TOKYO (AP) _ The Japanese government’s top economic panel on Thursday began considering emergency measures to lift the stock market from near 20-year lows, including calls on the state postal authority and central bank to buy more shares.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s administration has been searching for ways to halt a protracted stock slide, which has left banks and life insurers _ among the market’s biggest investors _ with heavy losses.

The panel was examining raising the investment limit for a public stock-buying fund from 2 trillion yen ($17.1 billion), and temporarily halting planned public sales of stakes in Japan Tobacco Inc. and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.

Other measures under consideration would encourage companies to buy back their own shares, lower corporate tax rates, delay a cap on banks’ equity investments and revamp public pension fund rules.

Among the most controversial of the steps is a recommendation that the Bank of Japan increase stock purchases by 1 trillion yen ($8.55 billion) to 4 trillion yen ($34.18 billion). Central bank officials have said they oppose such a plan.

The panel also may ask the postal services corporation to raise its investments in stocks. The postal authority manages 360 trillion yen ($3.08 trillion) in savings and insurance funds.

Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa said the panel would meet again next week to decide on the proposals.

Analysts, however, say the proposed measures won’t help the stock market in the long run and fail to address the problems ailing Japan’s economy.

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