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The World’s Largest Pension Fund Blames Brexit for a $51.8 Billion Loss

GPIF President Norihiro Takahashi Presents Annual ResultsGPIF President Norihiro Takahashi Presents Annual Results
Norihiro Takahashi, president of the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), at a news conference in Tokyo on July 29, 2016. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest pension fund, suffered investment losses of 5.2 trillion yen ($51.8 billion) in the fiscal first quarter as its returns fell on the back of tumbles in global equities.

GPIF said Britain’s surprise vote to leave the European Union in June was the catalyst for the latest paper losses, triggering a surge in the yen against the dollar and slide in world stock markets.

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The Brexit shock impacted returns negatively, it said. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225, for instance, lost 7% in the April-June quarter.

“The results of the Britain’s vote turned out to be different from what the market expected. And U.S unemployment data in May was much worse than the market expectation,” said GPIF President Norihiro Takahashi in a statement.

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“Because of these factors the yen strengthened quickly and the global stock market plunged,” he said.

GPIF, which managed 130 trillion yen as of June, had a negative return of 3.88% in the quarter, translating into paper losses of 5.2 trillion yen.

It was the seventh worst quarterly return since GPIF started managing its assets in 2001, Shinichiro Mori, a GPIF spokesman, told a media briefing. GPIF had the third biggest quarterly losses in the same period, he added.

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Of GPIF’s four asset classes, the Japanese bond portfolio was the only one with a positive return of 1.91%. The stock portfolio made a negative 7.38% return.

The GPIF made a historic shift in October 2014 by cutting its reliance on low-yielding domestic bonds and increasing weightings of stocks and other riskier assets.

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Since then GPIF investment has made a negative 0.42% return and had a 1.1 trillion yen paper losses, Mori said.