GPIF suffers $51.8 bln investment losses in 1st quarter

TOKYO, Aug 26 (Reuters) - The Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest pension fund, suffered investment losses of 5.2 trillion yen ($51.8 billion) in the fiscal first quarter as its returns fell on the back of tumbles in global equities.

GPIF said Britain’s surprise vote to leave the European Union in June was the catalyst for the latest paper losses, triggering a surge in the yen against the dollar and slide in world stock markets.

The Brexit shock impacted returns negatively, it said. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225, for instance, lost 7 percent in the April-June quarter.

“The results of the Britain’s vote turned out to be different from what the market expected. And U.S unemployment data in May was much worse than the market expectation,” said GPIF President Norihiro Takahashi in a statement.

“Because of these factors the yen strengthened quickly and the global stock market plunged,” he said.

GPIF, which managed 130 trillion yen as of June, had a negative return of 3.88 percent in the quarter, translating into paper losses of 5.2 trillion yen.

It was the seventh worst quarterly return since GPIF started managing its assets in 2001, Shinichiro Mori, a GPIF spokesman, told a media briefing. GPIF had the third biggest quarterly losses in the same period, he added.

Of GPIF’s four asset classes, the Japanese bond portfolio was the only one with a positive return of 1.91 percent. The stock portfolio made a negative 7.38 percent return.

The GPIF made a historic shift in October 2014 by cutting its reliance on low-yielding domestic bonds and increasing weightings of stocks and other riskier assets.

Since then GPIF investment has made a negative 0.42 percent return and had a 1.1 trillion yen paper losses, Mori said.

$1 = 100.4700 yen Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Shri Navaratnam