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UK pension funds and equity: Cult of equity RIP

UK pension funds slash equity allocations.

UK pension funds plan to continue slashing their exposure to domestic and international equities, says Greenwich Associates.

Two-thirds of final-salary pension plan sponsors expect to change their asset allocation mix over the next three years, with more than three-quarters of the largest UK pension funds planning big changes. More than half of the largest UK funds are planning significant cuts to domestic equities and more than a quarter are planning to reduce their exposure to international equities.

The planned cuts follow a 5% reduction in equity allocations last year and a 5.2% cut between 2006 and 2007. UK pension funds have cut their domestic stock allocations by more that 12% over the past five years while their total allocation to equities has fallen by more than 11%.

International fixed-income assets have been the primary beneficiary of the reduction in equity allocations. Fixed-income allocations overall increased to 30% in 2007 from 28.9% in 2006, and allocations to UK fixed income fell to 7.2% from 8.2%.

The trend is the death knell for UK pension funds’ traditional dedication to equity investing, which until not so long ago was referred to as a "cult of equity".

Not-so-gentle reminder

The most recent cuts came just months before the onset of the present financial crisis and might have proved savvy had fixed-income assets not also tanked.

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