It's finally happened. The pool of free, or nearly free, money from Japan is drying up. Almost. The Japanese central bank raised the benchmark interest rate by a quarter-point to a whopping 0.5%. If that seems like nothing, remember that the rate was actually just about nothing for more than half a decade. (My colleague and Global Gains teammate, Nate Parmelee, who lived in Japan, remembers overnight rates actually going negative.) It was only last July that the rate moved from 0 to 0.25%.

At that time, there was a bit of fear that global stock markets, fueled in part by borrowing cheap yen, might shrivel along with the dwindling liquidity. Obviously, that hasn't happened. In fact, the rising rate should probably be taken as a sign of health for the Japanese economy -- something the Japanese market appears to agree on, having barely budged on the news.

Is the shrug an indication that higher costs of borrowing won't really matter for companies like Toyota (NYSE:TM), Sony (NYSE:SNE), Mistubishi UFJ Financial (NYSE:MTU), and Mizuho Financial (NYSE:MFE)? Or is it just another sign that stock investors aren't concerned about ratcheting up their risk-free discount rates?

Interest rates matter. That's why we track these developments at Motley Fool Global Gains, our new international investing service, which happens to have pegged a promising international bank in the latest issue. A free trial is available here.

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At the time of publication, Seth Jayson had no positions in any company mentioned here. See his latest blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.