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Economy in Brief

UK Institutional Investors Invest Record Amount in Q3
by Carol Stone December 20, 2006

UK institutional investors added a record amount to their asset portfolios in Q3, according to the "First Release" of the widely followed "MQ5" report, which was issued this morning by the Office of National Statistics. Insurance companies, pension funds and trusts (mutual funds) acquired a net of £27.8 billion in UK and overseas securities, cash, and real estate and other assets, compared with £23.6 billion in Q2 and a previous record of £27.7 billion in Q1 2001. Further, the sum of the first three quarters of 2006 is £67.7 billion, just £1.8 billion shy of the largest investment amount in any previous YEAR, which was £69.5 billion in 2000.

Investment patterns have been quite interesting this year as well. In both Q2 and Q3 the firms have concentrated on additions to short-term holdings. See in the table below that such "cash and equivalents" are a large proportion of net investment, indeed, about 42% in Q3. In Q2 they were 40% of the total. This looks at a glance to reflect the negative yield curve in the UK -- and elsewhere, for that matter. In the second graph, we show net investment in short-term assets against the yield curve, measured as the spread between the 10-year nominal par yield on gilts and the 1-month sterling inter-bank rate. There appears to be a rough negative relationship, and indeed, why would investors put their money out long when short instruments pay more?

A second development of interest is the net liquidations of company shares, which are evident in our table. These groups of institutions have been net sellers of shares continuously since the spring of 2003, and off-and-on since 1999. It is important to notice here that these figures are the net of acquisitions and what in the UK are known as "realisations". They are NOT net changes in market value. In fact, the latter have been positive, as seen in the third graph, which also shows the trend in stock prices. The market value of stock holdings has continued to rise, even as this important UK investor group has been selling. It's an intriguing situation.

Quarterly Averages
UK: MQ5 Net Investment,
  £ Millions
Q3 2006 Q2 2006 Q3 2005
2005 2004 2003
Total Identified Assets 27,776 23,552 8,898 15,183 15,250 14,048
Short-Term 11,699 9,395 439 4,357 3,103 157
British Govt Securities 6,035 4,804 3,042 2,450 4,150 4,974
UK Company Shares -8,203 -8,460 -6,044 -5,507 -5,209 -1,293
Other UK Company Securities 3,178 5,517 3,111 3,545 5,126 6,445
Overseas Company Shares 3,021 -1,832 3,253 3,289 3,594 924
Other Overseas Company Securities 5,530 6,671 -495 1,891 2,435 1,742
Overseas Govt Securities 2,266 2,219 -596 89 -1,011 -859
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