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World's biggest pension fund reports record $136 billion loss

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 2/1/2019 Keiko Ujikane and Shigeki Nozawa

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The world’s biggest pension fund posted a record loss after a global equity rout last quarter pummeled an asset class that made up about half of its investments.

Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund lost 9.1 percent, or 14.8 trillion yen ($136 billion), in the three months ended Dec. 31, it said in Tokyo on Friday. The decline in value was the steepest based on comparable data back to April 2008. Domestic stocks were the fund’s worst performing investment, followed by foreign equities.

While stocks helped the GPIF generate returns for the previous two fiscal years, December’s global rout underscored the risks facing the fund since it revamped strategy in 2014 to accumulate stocks and pare domestic bonds. The GPIF may have little choice but to invest in equities as fixed-income yields, especially those of Japanese government debt, are too low, said Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.

“It makes a sense for the GPIF to hold some risk assets in this environment because yields are low globally and bond investments don’t give good returns,” Fujiwara said. “Yet from a pensioner’s point of view, it takes too much risk on its investments.”

More than $10 trillion in equity value was wiped out from the global markets last quarter as an ongoing trade spat between the U.S. and China raised concern over a slowdown in growth.

The Topix index plunged 18 percent in the October-December period, the biggest quarterly decline since 2008, while the S&P 500 Index dropped 14 percent, the most since 2011. Japan’s currency strengthened 3.7 percent against the dollar in the quarter.


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