NETHERLANDS - The combined value of pension funds' investments increased for the fourth consecutive quarter in 2009 to €649bn, pensions supervisor De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) has claimed.

"This growth reflected €5bn of net securities purchases and €18bn of price gains on shares and other equities", it said, while adding that bonds' prices have remained almost unchanged compared to the third quarter of 2009.

The watchdog noted the schemes' combined assets are still €20bn short of the total reached at the end of 2007.

According to DNB, Dutch pension funds continued shifting their securities transactions from direct to indirect investments through mutual investment funds,  largely because ABP and PfZW now technically feed their assets through funds managed by APG and PGGM.

Mutual Investment Funds (MIFs) have been set up by pension asset managers, such as APG and PGGM, to achieve economies of scale and cost reductions through pooling of investments by pension funds and other institutional investors.

Aside from the focus on a 58% rise in investment ‘units', as explained, more pension fund money flowed into fixed income from outside the Netherlands.

"€4bn has been directly invested in government bonds from the eurozone, from France and Germany in particular," stated the regulator.

At the same time, the ratio between equity and fixed income holdings remains constant at 31% and 42% respectively.

However, there has also been a seven percentage point shift from Dutch to foreign securities, alongside renewed interest in eurozone debt.

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