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SWFs pull US$16.2b from external managers in Q2 as selling accelerates

Friday, August 19, 2016 - 20:40
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Sovereign wealth funds pulled US$16.2 billion from third-party asset managers in the second quarter according to the latest data from research firm eVestment, up from a revised US$10.1 billion in the first quarter.

[LONDON] Sovereign wealth funds pulled US$16.2 billion from third-party asset managers in the second quarter according to the latest data from research firm eVestment, up from a revised US$10.1 billion in the first quarter.

The outflows were the second largest in five years, exceeded only by the $22 billion withdrawn by sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) in the third quarter of 2015, when oil prices tumbled around 25 percent.

Peter Laurelli, global head of research at eVestment, which collates data from 4,400 firms managing money on behalf of institutional investors, said SWF flows to external money managers appeared "highly correlated" to global commodity prices, particularly oil prices. "Continued redemptions could be a sign SWFs expect continued pressure on commodity prices in coming quarters," he said.

The second-quarter data also revealed the highest proportion of external managers reporting SWF net outflows, at 72 per cent, compared with just 28 per cent reporting net inflows.

The depth of the sell-off reflects the fact that countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, which are heavily reliant on oil exports to generate income, have raided their rainy day funds to close budget gaps.

The eVestment data showed that over US$7 billion was withdrawn from US equities mandates, with passive S&P 500 equity funds bearing the brunt of the selling. In total, equity funds lost US$8.6 billion.

This selling occurred despite strong gains in global stocks with the S&P 500 up 7 per cent this year to record highs, while the benchmark world equity index is up 4 per cent.

Overall, fixed income funds lost US$7.5 billion, with some US$3.2 billion pulled from US mandates and US$2.7 billion from global strategies.

Mr Laurelli highlighted the move away from inflation-sensitive bond products with accelerating redemptions from US and global products, which lost US$1.5 billion and almost US$3 billion respectively. "This could be a sign there is lack of faith from the SWF community of the effectiveness of global central bank monetary policy to stimulate inflation, or for continued concentrated efforts to do so," he said.

Even emerging market debt funds, which have attracted other investors in recent weeks because of their higher yields, suffered SWF redemptions of just under US$1.6 billion.

Asia Pacific equity was one of the few areas to see modest inflows, attracting US$748 million. This was mainly driven by net inflows of US$757 million into Malaysia equity funds. Overall EM equity mandates lost just over US$1 billion. "It is apparent that SWFs continue to allocate to external managers for niche strategies," Mr Laurelli said, noting three consecutive quarters of growing allocations to Malaysian equity and consistent allocations to EM infrastructure.

REUTERS