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Weaker euro boosts equity returns at Finland's Elo

Finland’s Elo saw returns of 5% last year despite an “exceptionally turbulent” market environment, aided largely by its equity and real estate holdings.

The pensions mutual said equity was its best-performing asset class over the course of 2015, as its unlisted equity holdings returned 26%.

But it added that its €8.3bn fixed income portfolio achieved zero return.

Listed equities, which accounted for one-quarter of the provider’s €20.5bn in assets, returned 11.1%, while a €1bn exposure to private equity returned 20.4%.

Elo CIO Hanna Hiidenpalo noted that equity performance varied widely during the year following a strong start.

“Equity market pricing declined from the year’s highs but remained higher than the long-term averages on the Western equity markets,” she said.

“Central banks’ activities and a lack of investment opportunities helped to support equity markets.”

Hiidenpalo admitted that exchange rates had an “exceptionally large” impact on returns and said the weaker euro boosted gains made by stocks denominated in US dollars.

Only Elo’s exposure to loans achieved a positive return within its fixed income portfolio, while the remainder of its holdings, accounting for 40% of assets, saw marginal losses of 0.2-0.4%, resulting in a portfolio-wide return of 0%.

Direct real estate holdings underperformed property funds, but the asset class overall achieved a result of 6.7%, ahead of the 1.6% achieved by hedge funds, which comprised the majority of its alternatives holdings.

Elo’s second year of operation, following the merger of Pension Fennia and LocalTapiola, saw it slightly ahead of the 4.8% 10-year nominal annualised return achieved by its predecessors.

Hiidenpalo predicted an uncertain 2016, due to the oil price slump and the declining outlook for China.

“Globally,” she added, “monetary policy is likely to remain very stimulative throughout the year, which will continue to support the investment markets.”

Nevertheless, she said 2016 would see “interesting investment opportunities” for long-term investors such as Elo.

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