World’s biggest pension fund hit by $52bn loss

© Issei Kato
Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) has posted a loss of $52 billion for April to June, following the tumbling Tokyo stock market and the yen’s surge.

The value of the fund’s assets dropped $1.3 trillion last quarter, wiping out all the gains GPIF made since October 2014, when it revised its investment strategy and put more money into stocks and foreign bonds.

The decline is another disappointment for the fund after a reported annual loss of 3.8 percent for the year ended in March, the worst performance since the financial crisis in 2008.

Concerns over the US economic outlook as well as UK’s vote to quit the European Union significantly hurt global equity markets, boosting demand for Japanese currency which was seen as a haven for investors in a time of economic uncertainty.

As a result, the yen surged against other currencies, reducing the value of overseas assets by 7.8 percent.

“The results of the UK’s referendum turned out to be different from what the market expected. And US unemployment data in May was much worse than forecast,” said Norihiro Takahashi, the president of GPIF in a statement.

Moreover, the fund’s domestic shares dropped 7.4 percent in the same period as the Topix index, the leading Japanese stock benchmark, faced a 7.5 percent decline.

Domestic bonds became the only asset with a profitable performance as the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rates sent yields lower.

As for the current quarter, strong US jobs data for June boosted the markets while Brexit turmoil calmed down, according to Shinichiro Mori, the GPIF’s deputy director-general of investment strategy.

“The markets have since restored stability, and I believe stock markets are on a recovery trend. In the meantime, the exchange rate, the dollar/yen rate, is still flat. We are going to carefully monitor its movements going forward,” Shinichiro Mori said, as quoted by WSJ.com.

As of June, 21 percent of the fund’s investments were held in local stocks with 39 percent in domestic bonds. Overseas equities totaled 21 percent of assets, while foreign debt accounted for 13 percent. GPIF targets allocations of 25 percent each for Japanese and overseas stocks, 35 percent for local bonds and 15 percent for foreign debt.

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“We invest with a long-term view. Even if market prices fluctuate in the short-term, it won’t damage pension beneficiaries. We are also strengthening risk management and continuing to hire experts,” said the fund’s president.