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Brexit caused ‘unusual and uncertain’ markets, says Finland’s Elo

Pensions mutual Elo credited stimulus measures by central banks for “stable” returns of 1% over the first half of 2016, as it praised its fixed income and property portfolios for strong gains.

The Finnish provider said that despite interventions by the European Central Bank and its counterpart in China, it had to contend with significant political uncertainty stemming from the terrorist attacks in France and the failed coup attempt in Turkey.

Discussing markets during the first half of the year, Elo said: “In late June, the British EU referendum forced the markets into a very unusual and uncertain state.

However, it conceded that in the wake of Brexit, investment income recovered “relatively quickly”.

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The €20.8bn, three-year-old provider saw its €4bn corporate bond portfolio as one of its strongest performers in the six months to June.

At 4.3%, corporate bonds returned well ahead of debt from publicly-owned institutions, which generated a 2.9% return – about on par with the fixed income portfolio’s overall 3% return.

Hanna Hiidenpalo, the fund’s CIO, noted the first half of the year saw interest rates fall to historically low levels, thereby boosting the bond portfolio’s return.

“We continued to efficiently diversify government bond investments outside of the euro area, in particular in the USA, and in emerging markets,” she added.

However, private equity was the portfolio’s best performer, at 5.2%, ahead of the 4.6% return from unlisted equity.

Both asset classes outperformed equity as a whole, with returns dragged down by a 4% loss from listed equity, which accounts for €5.6bn of the provider’s €7bn equity portfolio, and over a quarter of assets as a whole.

Real estate also performed well, at 3.7%, largely the result of Elo’s €2bn direct property portfolio, which returned 4%.

Hiidenpalo also struck a positive note about the growth prospects of Finland.

“Finland’s economic growth finally attained the same level as the rest of the euro area but our economy remains very sensitive to Europe’s economic development. Interest rates, which look like they will remain low, will support growth, a positive inflation trend and the investment markets.”

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