My first reaction is, “and this is news?”
According to Morningstar, the Year-to-date total return for the S&P 500 is
-36.19%. It would be extraordinary if the global fund did not face losses for the year. Yet, Forbes still thought this was newsworthy.
Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen explained:
‘This will be a hard year for the fund… this will be a year of losses, especially in the equity markets,’ she said in an interview posted on the BBC’s website on Monday.
‘Because we are very long term investors, we are not panicking, even if this is going to be a year of losses.’
Instead of focusing on the losses, the Norwegian people should see how the fund performed relative to major indices such as the S&P 500, the Dow, and or a European index.
Losses are to be expected in some years. The only question is whether the fund managers took unreasonable risks. If not, this should not be newsworthy.
That financial crisis that seems to be hitting the US hard? It’s hitting Norway hard too, or at least the Norwegian oil fund.
The oil fund, technically called “The Government Pension Fund – Global,” is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. Although those funds have received a lot of criticism recently because of their lack of transparency, Norway’s fund has mostly escaped the backlash. Perhaps it’s time for the Norwegian people to demand a bit more transparency, however?
In light of the collapse of Washington Mutual:
Norway’s so-called oil fund had shares worth NOK 168 million in Washington Mutual at the beginning of this year. That money likely has been lost, unless the oil fund sold off its holding.
Uncertainty is building around the oil fund, because it only releases information on its current holdings once a year. No information was immediately available on whether the fund still had Washington Mutual stock in its vast holdings…
…[Including debt obligations, however,] the oil fund’s exposure in Washington Mutual was over NOK 8 billion (well over USD 1 billion), and that money may now be lost as well.
But the person running the fund will at least reassure the Norwegian people, right?
Norwegian Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen, ultimately responsible for the oil fund, has resisted commenting in detail on effects of the US financial crisis, noting that the next quarterly report from the oil fund will be released next month.
At least some reporting is better than none. Ever.