Norway sovereign wealth fund flat in second quarter

Norway's Government Pension Fund, the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, posted a return of just 0.1 percent in the second quarter, amid falling stocks in emerging markets and bond markets, the central bank said Friday.

The fund, which contains most state revenues from the country's massive oil and gas sector and is managed by the central bank, invests abroad in equities, bonds and, to a lesser degree, real estate.

The fund was created in the early 1990s to help finance the generous welfare state system once the wells run dry.

At the end of the month of June, the fund's total value was 4,397 billion kroner (561.8 billion euros, $752.6 billion).

The fund registered a return of 0.9 percent on its share holdings, which represent 63.4 percent of its portfolio, as strong stock market performances in Japan and the United States were partially eclipsed by sliding stocks in emerging markets.

The fund meanwhile registered a negative return of 1.4 percent on the bond market, which represents 35.7 percent of its portfolio.

The fund sold some of its French, British and Australian sovereign bonds during the quarter, and bought Japanese, US and Brazilian bonds.

The move is part of its stated goal to reduce its share of investments in Europe, which are proportionally over-represented, and strengthen its presence in emerging markets in the Americas and Asia.

Real estate investments, which represent just a modest share of the fund, yielded a positive return of 3.9 percent.

According to the specialised SWF Institute, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund is the world's largest, ahead of Saudi Arabia's Sama Foreign Holdings.

The fund, which aims to follow strict ethical guidelines, meanwhile announced the creation of a three-person committee to advise it on global governance issues and specific company issues.

And it is now possible to see, on the central bank's website, how the fund votes at the annual general meetings of the companies in which it has holdings.

Ethical regulations bar the fund from investing in "particularly inhumane" weapons makers, the tobacco industry, or companies guilty of violating human rights, causing serious environmental damage, or corruption.

But it is nonetheless regularly criticised for ill-advised investments.