Japan’s GPIF posts best annual gain in three years with $91b returns

Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The world’s biggest pension fund posted its best annual gain in three years despite a loss during the final quarter of its business calendar.

Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF)  returned 6.9 percent, or 10.1 trillion yen ($91 billion), in the year ended March 31, with assets totaling 156.4 trillion yen, it said in Tokyo on Friday. Domestic stocks were the fund’s best performing investment, adding 5.5 trillion yen, followed by a 3.5 trillion yen increase in overseas shares. Domestic bonds gained 362 billion yen, while overseas debt rose 674 billion yen.

Six quarters of gains boosted assets to a record at the end of 2017. The GPIF incurred losses during the first three months of this year as investor sentiment turned from optimism over U.S. tax cuts to fears of a trade war. A global equity rout and plunge in Treasuries in its final fiscal quarter kept the fund from beating a record 12 percent annual gain set three years ago.

“The environment is favorable for stock investments for the time being as the global economy remains solid and inflation is benign,” said Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager for Shinkin Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “Yet, from a long-term perspective, the ratio of risk assets in its portfolio may be too much.”

The GPIF doubled stock holdings and cut bonds as part of a strategy revamp in 2014 with the assumption that rising prices would erode the spending power of Japan’s low-yielding debt. Since then, the shift has helped the fund generate a positive return for three out the past four fiscal years.

“Domestic and overseas stocks rose largely supported by a robust economic environment and solid corporate earnings, in addition to” political stabilization in Europe and expectations over an economic boost from a U.S. tax cut, GPIF President Norihiro Takahashi said in a statement Friday. “However, toward the end of the fiscal year, domestic and overseas stocks narrowed their gains on uncertainties over U.S. trade policy, while the yen strengthened against the dollar.”

Trade friction between the U.S. and China has become a big issue when assessing the investment environment, Takahashi said at a press conference in Tokyo. In addition, he said the fund is cautious about investing in Japanese bonds with a maturity less than 10 years because of negative yields.

During the fiscal year, the Topix index gained more than 13 percent while benchmark Japanese government bonds were little changed. The MSCI All-Country World Index of global stocks rose 13 percent.

Japan’s currency strengthened 4.8 percent against the dollar and U.S. Treasuries returned 0.4 percent.

GPIF has a general target to keep 25 percent of its basic portfolio in domestic stocks and 25 percent in overseas shares. The permissible range of deviation is 9 percent for local equities and 8 percent for stocks abroad. The fund holds the majority of its stock investments in strategies that track indexes.

Alternative assets accounted for 0.13 percent of GPIF holdings, below the allowable limit of 5 percent.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.