Times Staff and Wire Reports

S&P; Lowers Ratings of 4 Japanese Banks: Standard & Poor's Rating Group downgraded the credit rating on four of Japan's biggest commercial banks, citing concern about "the length and severity" of the bad-loan problems plaguing Japan's banking industry. "They're still saddled with a huge amount of problem loans, the real estate market is declining and the economy is in a depressed state with no sign of recovery," said S&P; bank analyst Shinano Morita. Considering these factors, and what she described as the weakening of government support, Morita said, S&P; cut the short- and long-term debt ratings on Sanwa Bank Ltd. and Mitsubishi Bank Ltd. and the long-term ratings of Sumitomo Bank Ltd. and Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank Ltd.

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