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The "Middle-Risk Gap" and Financial System Reform: Small-Firm Financing in Japan

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  • Schaede, Ulrike

    (U CA, San Diego)

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    Abstract

    This paper addresses the puzzling existence and persistence of a pronounced "middle-risk gap" in Japan's interest rate structure, which reflects an underdeveloped and distorted market for small-firm finance. The paper shows that a confluence of systemic reasons (including a shift away from the former reliance on real estate collateral, social constraints on bank strategies, bank capital adequacy constraints, and an underdeveloped market for securitized debt) and political pressure on banks have inhibited private bank activity in the middle market and necessitated specialized banks for small-firm financing. A second concern is the overall low level of the loan interest rate structure. The paper argues that the Japanese governments small-firm loan programs at greatly subsidized rates have depressed loan rates and exacerbated the middle- risk gap, creating great impediments to banking reforms. However, these subsidized small-firm loans are best understood as welfare, and while they are market-distorting they cannot simply be abolished without a substitute. The middle-risk gap is both a strong indicator of, and an important reason for, the slow course of financial system reform in Japan. Successful reforms toward a greater market orientation in Japanese banking must begin with the interest rate structure.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan in its journal Monetary and Economic Studies.

    Volume (Year): 23 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 1 (February)
    Pages: 149-176

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    Handle: RePEc:ime:imemes:v:23:y:2005:i:1:p:149-176

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    1. Boot, Arnoud W. A., 2000. "Relationship Banking: What Do We Know?," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 7-25, January.
    2. Hideaki Hirata & Tokiko Shimizu, . "Purchase of SME-related ABS by the Bank of Japan: Monetary Policy and SME Financing in Japan," Working Paper 164521, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    3. Strahan, Philip E. & Weston, James P., 1998. "Small business lending and the changing structure of the banking industry1," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(6-8), pages 821-845, August.
    4. Ricardo J. Caballero & Takeo Hoshi & Anil K. Kashyap, 2006. "Zombie Lending and Depressed Restructuring in Japan," NBER Working Papers 12129, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Smith, David C., 2003. "Loans to Japanese borrowers," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 283-304, September.
    6. Takeo Hoshi & Anil Kashyap, 2004. "Corporate Financing and Governance in Japan: The Road to the Future," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262582481, December.
    7. David C. Smith, 2003. "Loans to Japanese borrowers," International Finance Discussion Papers 769, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    8. Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1981. "Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 393-410, June.
    9. Mitchell A. Petersen & Raghuram G. Rajan, 1994. "The Effect of Credit Market Competition on Lending Relationships," NBER Working Papers 4921, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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