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World's biggest sovereign fund worried about trade wars

Aug 21 2018 13:01

The managers of Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's biggest, expressed concern Tuesday about global trade tensions, which could heavily impact its value.

The fund posted a positive return of 1.8%, in the second quarter, helping erase a loss of 171 billion kroner in January-March that was attributed to a volatile stock market.

The Government Pension Fund Global, which saw its total value swell to 8.33 trillion kroner by the end of June, manages the country's oil revenues in order to finance Norway's generous welfare state when its oil and gas wells run dry.

But Norway's central bank, which runs the fund, said geopolitical and trade tensions presented a risk.

"It's fair to say that increased trade barriers or even trade wars will not be beneficial for the fund as a long term global investor," Trond Grande, the deputy chief of Norges Bank Investment Management, told reporters.

Markets are worried about a trade dispute between the United States and China. Accusing Beijing of unfair competition, the US administration is considering slapping a new round of levies worth $200bn on Chinese goods.

Talks between the two slated for Wednesday and on Thursday aimed at resolving the dispute have however eased concerns somewhat.

Following US-Turkey tensions that sent the Turkish lira and the Istanbul stock market tumbling, the Norwegian fund said its assets there were worth less than the 23 billion kroner they were at the beginning of the year.

"We've seen the market rise for a long time, that there are different political and geopolitical events in the world that can affect the market, and we have to be prepared for the fact that (the value of) the fund can go down a lot," Grande concluded.

The fund's strong second quarter was attributed primarily to its share portfolio, which accounts for 66.8% of its investments and which rose by 2.7%.

Real estate holdings, which account for 2.6% of its holdings, rose by 1.9%, while bond investments, which represent 30.6%, remained flat.

Faced with falling oil revenues in recent years, the Norwegian government has been tapping the fund to finance public spending since 2015. But with oil prices recovering, the fund registered its first inflow in three years in June.

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