Gold: Mexican Pension Funds Show Interest After Rules Are Eased

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Mexico’s pension funds have showed fresh interest in gold, after the lifting of years of strict investment regulations, according to the World Gold Council.

The council has talked to about half of the country’s 20 or so influential pension fund managers, who together manage $160 billion in assets, said council investment research director Juan Carlos Artigas on Monday.

Legislation from 2012 allowed Mexican pension funds to invest in gold and commodities in 2013, and invest more freely in foreign assets. Japan’s pension funds, which together hold the world’s second-largest pool of retirement assets, have also gravitated toward gold.

“I spoke to many of the pension funds in Mexico last year,” Artigas told reporters in New York on Monday. “Many of them are interested… They need to get a certification for investing in commodities. But once they do, it’ll be likely that they’ll start investing.”

“Compared to the pension fund space in the U.S., it’s probably small, but it’s still $160 billion or so in assets. So it’s still substantial,” he continued. Mexican pension funds account for 22 percent of Mexican savings, and could double in assets by 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Mexico’s pension funds still face caps on how much they can invest in commodities and foreign assets, as a slice of their assets. They won’t be able to invest more than 10 percent of their assets in commodities, depending on the fund’s structure.

The world’s largest gold-backed fund, SPRD’s GLD, is cross-listed for trade in Mexico, so investments in the fund won’t count toward a foreign investment cap, said Artigas.

Pension fund interest in gold rarely impacts the yellow metal’s price, since it plays a relatively small role in a $236 billion global market. Bloomberg estimated in 2012 that only $9 billion in Mexican pension assets will be eligible for commodities investment overall. At the same time, influential U.S. hedge funds sold gold heavily in 2013, contributing to bearish sentiment.

Mexican pension fund purchases of gold may amount to dozens of metric tons at most, in a market that demands more than 4,000 tons annually. But there are already 15 Japanese pension funds buying gold through exchange-traded funds, which may make a larger impact, according to William Rhind, who handles institutional investors for the council.

Gold performed better than most Mexican assets from 2003 to 2013 but underperformed Mexican equities, earlier World Gold Council research showed. Gold prices fell 28 percent in 2013, in their worst year since 1981. 

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