The return for 2020 was 22,4% (USD), with strong contribution from all four mandates.
The market turbulence in March was utilized to execute the business unit’s shift from diversifying investments with low correlation to attractive long-only equity investments.
Not even the first global pandemic in more than a hundred years could stop the strong development in global equity markets. The MSCI All Country World (USD) index rose 16,3% in 2020, after having fallen as much as 32% from the start of 2020 until the markets bottomed March 23rd. The fixed income markets reacted even more, and at one stage, the US fixed income market was actually dysfunctional. The VIX index also reached levels not seen since the great financial crisis.
The outlook related to the pandemic dominated the news flow and market development throughout the year, and the markets absorbed the American presidential election in November and Brexit without any drama.
Growth stocks outperformed value stocks yet another year, with large return dispersion between sectors. Globally, information technology (+44%), consumer discretionary (+37%) and the communication services sector(+23%) were the strongest sectors, with “stay-at-home” stocks profiting on Covid-19 being the largest winners. Green energy stocks were the other group of winners; the WilderHill Clean Energy index recorded a gain of 202,6% in 2020. Energy and financial stocks had a strong end to the year, but both sectors ended in negative territory for the year. The global energy sector was the worst performing sector in 2020 (MSCI World Energy -35%) on the back of the significant decline in the oil price (Brend -43% in 2020).
The Asian markets recorded a gain of 19% in local currency and 22% in USD (MSCI AC Asia ex Japan). The S&P 500 index rose 18,4%, while the NASDAQ index rose a solid 45%. The Oslo Stock Exchange managed to post a gain of 4,6% after a strong month in December. The Norwegian Krone weakened to historically low levels against the USD in March, but recovered most of this and ended 2,4% weaker in 2020. Despite strong performance towards year end, the European equity market ended down 3,3% in 2020 (MSCI Europe). The Euro strengthened 9% against the USD and 6,5% against the Norwegian Krone.
Activity and results
Ferd External Managers’ four mandates returned 22,4% in 2020 (USD).
The main objective of Ferd’s investments with external managers is to complement Ferd’s direct investments. During the strategic review process in 2019, it was, as a way to utlitize Ferd’s risk capacity in a more efficient manner, decided to shift the business area’s investments from investments with low correlation and diversification benefits to attractive and complementary equity market exposure.
The market turbulence in March accelerated the speed of this shift. Our hedge fund investments held up well during this period, and it was decided to reallocate most of this capital to the equity markets which had fallen significantly at that point in time. In total, we redeemed 1,5 billion NOK during the second quarter. We invested 265 million NOK in existing long-only funds focused on the Asian markets and invested 470 million NOK within the “US Centric” theme.
The Global Equity mandate had a particularly strong year, returning 31,4%, and managed well through the downturn and excelled during the following rise in equity markets. The Global Equity mandate’s return was 9,8% higher than the implied return given the funds’ net exposure to relevant markets.
The Relative Value and Macro mandates returned 9,6% and 9,8% respectively. Following the reallocations in Q2, these two mandates only comprised three funds at year end, and these funds had a return in the range of 13% to 25% in 2020.
Global Fund Opportunity returned 20,1% and where the largest investment had a very strong year.
Due to the shift towards more equity market exposure, turnover was higher than normal in 2020. A total of 1,5 billion NOK was allocated out from Relative value and Macro. Within Global Equity, 735 million NOK was allocated to investments in Asia and two new US Centric focused managers. 101 million NOK was allocated out of the mandate due to a redemption in an Equity Long/Short fund.
Net cash flow for the Global Fund Opportunities mandate was 3 million NOK. We did not commit to any new investments in Global Fund Opportunities in 2020.
At the end of 2020, assets under management between the four mandates was 4,75 billion NOK divided between 14 different managers. As of 2021, the assets will be managed in two mandates – Global Equity and Global Fund Opportunities.