Much has been written already of the impending collapse in the bond market this year but when a big fish makes a move, nobody wants to be left behind. Japan’s biggest pension fund (Government Pension Investment Fund) is looking to move away from it large holding of JGBs. Many more will sure to follow suit.
Japan’s public pension fund, the world’s biggest manager of retirement savings, is considering the first change to its asset balance as a new government’s policies could erode the value of $747 billion in local bonds.
Managers of the Government Pension Investment Fund, which oversees about 108 trillion yen ($1.16 trillion) in assets, will begin talks in April about reducing its 67 percent target allocation to domestic bonds, President Takahiro Mitani said in a Feb. 1 interview in Tokyo. The fund may increase holdings in emerging market stocks and start buying alternative assets.
The GPIF, created in 2006, didn’t alter the structure of its holdings during the worst global financial crisis in 80 years or in response to the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Bank of Japan (8301) have pledged to restore economic growth and spur inflation, which will mean higher interest rates, Mitani said.
“If we think about the future and if interest rates go up, then 67 percent in bonds does look harsh,” Mitani, who was appointed in 2010 after serving as an executive director at the Bank of Japan, said. “We will review this soon. We will begin discussions for this in April-to-May. Any changes to our portfolio could begin at the end of the next fiscal year.”
GPIF, one of the biggest buyers of Japanese government bonds, held 69.3 trillion yen, or 64 percent of total assets, in domestic debt at the end of September, according to its latest quarterly financial statement. That compares with 12 trillion yen, or 11 percent, in Japanese stocks; 9.6 trillion yen, or 9 percent, in foreign bonds; and 12.6 trillion yen, or 12 percent, in overseas stocks.
The yield on Japan’s 10-year government bond climbed 3 basis points to 0.795 percent as of 12:33 p.m. in Tokyo today. By comparison, the projected dividend yield for the Topix Index (TPX), the country’s broadest measure of equity performance, is 2.05 percent. The Topix added 1.1 percent today.
Japan’s bonds handed investors a 1.8 percent return in 2012, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch Index, compared with the 18 percent surge in the Topix.
Even as shares jumped amid optimism surrounding Abe’s stimulus plans, benchmark Japanese government bond yields have remained below their five-year average yield of 1.18 percent. Benchmark 10-year yields are the lowest in the world after Switzerland and are less than half the level in the U.S.
“JGBs were how we made money over the past 10 years,” Mitani said. “The BOJ said that they are increasing buying bonds, but they’re also putting power into lowering interest rates. If the economy gets better, then long-term interest rates like a 10-year yield at less than 1 percent are unlikely.”
The five-year JGB rate touched a record low 0.14 percent last month amid speculation the Bank of Japan will expand bond purchases as part of the monetary easing advocated by Abe.
The comments by Mitani show the pension manager needs to consider higher-risk, higher-yield assets to help fund retirements of the world’s oldest population. About 26 percent of the nation is older than 65, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Under Mitani’s leadership, the GPIF began buying emerging- market assets in September 2011 and started purchasing shares in countries included in the MSCI Emerging Market Index (MXEF) last year. Mitani said in July 2012 that the fund was selling JGBs to pay for people’s entitlements and might consider alternative investments as it seeks better returns.
Source : Bloomberg