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Veritas returns turn positive in first half as bonds rally

Finnish pensions insurer Veritas posted a narrowly positive investment return for the first half of this year, thanks, in part, to bond prices rallying due to actions taken by global central banks.

Reporting interim financial figures for January to June, Veritas said investments generated a 0.9% return in the period, up from a loss of 0.4% for the first three months of the year, but still significantly lower than the 5.8% return produced in the first half of 2015.

Niina Bergring, investment director at the pensions insurance company, said: “Fixed-income investments produced the best return, at 2.4%, because the level of interest rates sank markedly after the central banks introduced new stimulus measures, and because economic uncertainty continued to increase.”

In the first half of 2015, fixed-income investments returned just 1.1% for Veritas.

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Equity investments, on the other hand, made a 1.2% loss in the six-month period, the firm said.

“Listed shares returned minus 2.2%, while unlisted shares returned 9.2%,” Bergring said.

In the first half of last year, Veritas made a 12.9% return on its equity investments, including 13.3% for listed shares and 9.2% for unlisted.

Property, which makes up 10.2% of Veritas’ investments, produced a 2.3% return in the first half, down from 5.0% in the same period last year.

Veritas said the slowdown in global growth expectations at the beginning of the year had prompted many investors to seek safe havens. 

This cautious stance had then been reinforced when the central banks’ efforts to revive the economy continued and the fear of Brexit had increased, it added.

However, the third quarter had begun on a strong footing, Bergring said.

She said market turbulence had died down over the summer and appetite for risk had risen significantly during the late summer weeks.

“The European Central Bank’s purchases of corporate bonds caused credit margins to decline,” she said, adding that in the US, the economy had developed better than expected and that this had given markets a boost, particularly in July and August.

Veritas’ solvency ratio dipped to 26.8% of technical provisions at the end of June, down from 28.1% at the end of December.

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