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World's biggest pension fund adds US$39b as stocks rise

[TOKYO]The world's biggest pension fund posted its fifth-straight quarterly gain, the longest run in more than two years, as global stocks advanced to new highs and weakness in the yen helped boost the value of overseas investments.

Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund returned 3 per cent, or 4.5 trillion yen (S$53.6 billion), in the three months ended Sept 30, increasing assets to a record 156.8 trillion yen, it said in Tokyo on Thursday. Domestic equities added 1.8 trillion yen as the value of foreign equities increased by 2 trillion yen, particularly boosted by the euro's strength.

Prospects for higher corporate earnings have driven the Topix index to levels unseen in more than a decade, while US stock benchmarks climbed to records on confidence the world's largest economy will sustain its growth. GPIF's string of gains follows a series of losses after it overhauled its strategy in 2014 to buy more shares and cut debt.

"Their investment itself is going well, and going forward I don't expect a lot of movement from them that would impact the market" said Koichi Kurose, Tokyo-based chief market strategist at Resona Bank Ltd. "Japanese stocks have been rising so there's a possibility GPIF will sell to balance their portfolio, but right now I'm not hearing a lot of speculation on that." The fund's Japanese stocks returned 4.8 per cent over the three months, above the Topix's rise of almost 4 per cent. Overseas stocks added 5.6 per cent, helped by a 3.4 per cent drop in the yen against the euro, as well as weakness versus the greenback, increasing the value of foreign holdings when repatriated. The MSCI All-Country World Index of global stocks climbed 4.7 per cent last quarter.

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"At GPIF we manage assets from a long-term perspective," GPIF President Norihiro Takahashi said in a statement on Thursday.

The fund's domestic bond holdings, which accounted for 28.5 per cent of total assets, posted a 0.2 per cent gain. Foreign bonds added 2.5 per cent, making up 14 per cent of GPIF's investments at the end of September.

Japanese stocks accounted for 24 per cent of holdings, while overseas equities were 24 per cent of assets. The target levels for GPIF's portfolio are 35 per cent for domestic debt, 15 per cent for foreign bonds, and 25 per cent each for domestic and overseas shares. The percentage allocations for foreign bonds, overseas stocks and short-term assets were all at record highs.

Alternative assets accounted for 0.1 per cent of GPIF holdings, below the allowable limit of 5 per cent. The fund has also invested around 1 trillion yen into indexes that track Japanese stocks with high environmental, social and corporate governance scores. GPIF announced Wednesday that it plans to consider investing in environmental indexes covering Japanese and foreign stocks.

"On ESG, GPIF is taking the lead, trying to create benchmarks for others," said Resona's Kurose. "I see others following that lead."