Quebec Pension Gains 4.2%, Boosted by Tech Recovery

Quebec’s pension manager rode a rising stock market to a 4.2% return in the first half of the year, essentially matching its benchmark.

(Bloomberg) — Quebec’s pension manager rode a rising stock market to a 4.2% return in the first half of the year, essentially matching its benchmark. 

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec said its public equities portfolio gained 10.6% in the six-month period, benefiting from the fund’s decision to boost exposure to technology companies. 

Chief Executive Officer Charles Emond described it as a “challenging” environment for investors — with “contradictory signals” from elevated interest rates, a declining rate of inflation, a strong jobs market and an equity bull market that’s being driven by a handful of megacap stocks. 

“We see clouds on the horizon,” he said in a conference call with media. “So for the rest of the year up until the end of 2024, we’re going to be looking for balance in that corridor between the rates, inflation and growth.”

Caisse’s private equity returns of 1.4% were well below the benchmark of 7.2%, after years of outsized gains. The portfolio was “constrained” by higher financing costs, the C$424 billion ($314 billion) fund said in a statement Wednesday. 

Caisse manages the pensions of retirees in Quebec, Canada’s second-most populous province, as well as various provincial insurance plans. Over 10 years, its annualized return was 7.9%, compared with 7% for a benchmark portfolio. 

Infrastructure assets rose 4.7%, beating the index, on the strength of renewable energy, telecommunications and transportation assets, Caisse said. The value of the fund’s property holdings dipped 1.5%. 

The fund has been an active buyer and seller of real estate in recent years to reduce its reliance on office buildings and shopping malls and expand in other areas, such as warehouses and industrial property. 

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In June, Emond said a reckoning is coming for lower-quality office buildings over the next few years, made worse by tightening credit at US regional banks.

Caisse also sees value in fixed income for the long term, the firm’s head of liquid markets, Vincent Delisle, said at the briefing.

“2022 was a year of a lot disruptions in the bond markets. The interest rates went from zero to 4.5%, and that was reflected in the asset class,” he said. “The current yield of our credit portfolio is at 7.5%. That’s very attractive when we look at the next five to 10 years.”

On Tuesday, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan said it is making a bigger bet on bonds and credit and is adding leverage to fund it. The pension manager earned a 1.9% return in the first half as its fixed income and credit portfolio advanced and stocks rebounded.

(Updates with comments from executives beginning in fourth paragraph. An earlier version was corrected to change an incorrect reference to real-asset returns.)

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