Nor­way oil fund loses 18b eu­ros in first half

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE - OSLO -AFP

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.

NEW YORK -AP

Signs re­fer­ring to the QAnon con­spir­acy the­ory with a Q have ap­peared at ral­lies for Pres­i­dent Trump.

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