“The recovery seems to be pausing”. In its latest monthly economic report, Japan’s central bank strikes a sombre tone. The latest data from the country’s banks, published a day later, will offer little encouragement.

Following a 2% year-on-year decline in October, the outstanding loan balance of Japan’s commercial banks has now fallen for 11 consecutive months. It’s somewhat curious, then, that the central bank also reports that “firms see financial institutions’ lending attitudes as improving”.