Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund — the largest pension fund in the world with $1.3 trillion in assets — posted a return of -3.8 percent for its fiscal year 15-16, officials confirmed on Thursday.
The loss, which amounts to $51 billion, comes on the heels of a years-long portfolio overhaul which saw the fund skew its allocation towards equities and away from bonds.
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The annual loss — GPIF’s first since doubling its allocation to stocks and paring domestic bond holdings in October 2014 — came during a volatile stint for markets. Japanese shares sank 13 percent in the year through March while the yen climbed 6.7 percent against the dollar, reducing returns from overseas investments. The only asset class to post a profit was local debt, which jumped in value as the Bank of Japan’s adoption of negative interest rates sent yields tumbling.
“The results are painful,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, a senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “Because it’s a pension fund, they need to have a long-term outlook, so I don’t think we can say yet that they took on too much risk. It was a harsh investment environment for most of us.”
In a press briefing in Tokyo after the results were announced, GPIF President Norihiro Takahashi said he will reflect on the performance, but that the current portfolio has enough flexibility to adapt to different market conditions and he wants to run the fund steadily. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief government spokesman, said GPIF’s management shouldn’t be influenced by short-term moves and there is absolutely no issue with its financing.