Japan households still risk-shy despite heavy Bank of Japan easing: survey

October 14, 2016 4:55 AM EDT

A woman pays money as she buys fruits outside a vegetable store at Ameyoko shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/File Photo

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Only 30 percent of Japanese households have experience investing in stocks and nearly 80 percent say they would not take on risk even for an investment yielding significant returns, a survey showed, underscoring the difficulty of reversing the risk-aversion widely blamed for prolonging Japan's chronic deflation.

One of the key goals of the Bank of Japan's aggressive monetary stimulus program, deployed in 2013, was to prompt households to shift money away from deposits and into investment by building public expectations that inflation would accelerate.

A survey by public entity the Central Council for Financial Services Information found that in addition to only 31.6 percent of households saying they have invested in stocks, only 17.3 percent said they had invested in foreign currency-denominated assets.

Asked whether they would invest 100,000 yen ($972) if there was a 50 percent chance of producing a 20,000-yen gain after a year and the same probability it would produce a 10,000-yen loss, 78.6 percent said they would not invest, the survey showed.

"The survey illustrates some of the characteristics of Japanese households, one of which is their strong risk aversion," said Noriaki Kawamura, the council's director and head of a BOJ group in charge of promoting financial literacy.

"They also tend to be more cautious and steady in their money management compared to U.S. and European households," he told Reuters on Friday.

The poll of 25,000 households conducted from Feb. 29 to March 17, is the first most comprehensive survey in Japan on financial literacy and households' investment behavior. The English version of the survey was released this week.

The survey is part of policymakers' efforts to enhance financial literacy in Japan, which lags behind the United States and Europe, and encourage households to avoid hoarding cash and accept more risk.

The BOJ acts as a secretariat of the council, which conducts surveys and financial education programs.

(This version of the story has been refiled to correct function of BOJ group in fifth paragraph, promotes financial "literacy", not education)

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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