Norway oil fund loses 18b euros in first half
Norway's huge sovereign wealth fund, the world's biggest, lost 188 billion kroner (18 billion euros, $21 billion) in the first half of the year as the global economy reels from the COVID-19 pandemic, the central bank said.
The fund, in which the Norwegian state's oil revenues are invested, was hit by plummeting share prices, with stocks accounting for 69.6 percent of its investments.
Its share portfolio posted a negative return of 6.8 percent in the first six months of the year. At the end of June, the fund was valued at 10.4 trillion kroner (989 billion euros), up from the 9.98 trillion kroner seen at the end of the first quarter.
"The year started with optimism, but the outlook of the equity market quickly turned when the coronavirus started to spread globally," the fund's deputy chief executive, Trond Grande, said in a statement.
"However, the sharp stock market decline of the first quarter was limited by a massive monetary and financial policy response," he added.
Real estate investments, which represent 2.8 percent of the portfolio, also posted a negative return, of 1.6 percent, while bond investments, which account for 27.6 percent of assets, posted a gain of 5.1 percent.
"Even though markets recovered well in the second quarter, we are still witnessing considerable uncertainty," Grande said.
The fund is meanwhile still mired in controversy over the appointment of a new chief executive. Nicolai Tangen, a billionaire who founded the AKO Capital hedge fund in London, is due to take over the fund on September 1, replacing Yngve Slyngstad who is retiring.
But critics have complained about Tangen's possible conflicts of interest, as well as his use of tax havens. The central bank has meanwhile been criticised for irregularities in the recruitment process.
As a result, some major political parties are opposed to Tangen's appointment, and it remains up in the air. A shallow 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck the central Philippines, the US Geological Survey said, sending residents fleeing their homes, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The quake struck southeast of Masbate Island in the Bicol region at 8:03 am (0003 GMT).
"There are a lot of damaged houses," said Staff Sergeant Antonio Clemente in Cataingan, a town on the impoverished Masbate Island several kilometres west of the epicentre in the Samar Sea.
"It was really strong."
Homes in poor rural areas of the Philippines are often made from lightweight material such as wood.
The quake struck as the archipelago battles surging numbers of coronavirus cases, with restrictions on movement that vary across the country.
In nearby Palanas town, police chief Captain Alvin Guerina told AFP that several patients, including a pregnant woman about to go into labour, were evacuated from a hospital as a precaution in case of aftershocks. The USGS said there was a "low likelihood" of casualties or damage from the quake.
"Recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as landslides and liquefaction that might have contributed to losses," it said. In the city of Iloilo about 400 kilometres (250 miles) southwest of Masbate in the neighbouring Visayas region, residents ran out onto the streets.
"It was strong, dizzying," police Colonel Eric Dampal told AFP.
"Almost everyone inside buildings rushed to the streets. Up to now, they're still outside."
The Philippines is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
A 6.8-magnitude quake struck the southern island of Mindanao in December, killing at least three people, injuring dozens and damaging buildings.
It hit as the island was still recovering from a string of deadly quakes in October.
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