By Tomo Uetake and Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO (Reuters) – Nippon Life Insurance Co, Japan’s largest private life insurer, plans to double its investment in foreign real estate and infrastructure by early next year, its top investment official told Reuters on Tuesday.
The move came amid growing expectation that low interest rates in Japan and other developed countries are likely to stay for a long time and therefore the insurer will need a new source of income.
Nippon Life plans to commit a total of 350 billion yen ($3.2 billion) to investments in real estate and infrastructure, mostly in North America and Europe, through funds of funds, said Kazuhide Toda, the company’s chief investment officer.
The investment would be made gradually over years, by responding to fund managers’ capital calls. The size of its investments in alternative assets was likely to about 380 billion yen by early 2021, double the level at the end of the last financial year, in March 2019, Toda said.
Like many investors in Japan and Europe, Nippon Life’s profits have been squeezed by dwindling bond yields in Japan and elsewhere.
The 10-year JGB yield stood at minus 0.04% on Tuesday, after having plunged to as low as minus 0.295% last September on fear of U.S.-China trade war.
Most European bonds also have negative yields while in the United States, now the highest-yielding among developed countries, 10-year Treasury notes yield about 1.6%, compared with more than 3.5% decade ago.
Nippon Life expects investments in the alternative assets to yield about 8% and expects to be able to afford to invest more in such illiquid assets.
On top of yield enhancement, increasing exposure to foreign real assets brings more benefits in terms of diversification, Toda said.
Partly to fund increased investment in alternative assets, Nippon Life has been expanding the use of derivatives, such as interest rates swaps and options, in its fixed income portfolio in the yen, the core of its assets.
Including group firms, Nippon Life has total assets of 81 trillion yen.
($1 = 109.70 yen)
(Additional reporting by Kazuhiko Tamaki; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Need to tap into your investments? Beware of tax traps – BNN Bloomberg
Inflation has been putting a strain on just about every household budget. In some cases, it’s the increased cost of food. In other cases, it’s the higher cost of servicing debt as interest rates skyrocket.
If dipping into your retirement savings is the only alternative to make ends meet it’s important to know the tax consequences vary depending on where you draw the cash from.
Ideally, you will already have some cash in your retirement accounts, but your needs could require liquidating investments. Selling investments in a pinch can be tricky in a market where just about everything is in a slump. A qualified investment advisor can help trim profits, or separate the duds from those poised to realize their potential.
You might also want to consult a tax expert. Any tax pro will tell you to never make an investment decision based solely on tax implications, but the amount of tax you pay on withdrawals often depends on how the money is stored and your personal situation.
There is no tax on cash transfers from a regular, non-registered investment account. If a stock or equity fund is sold to generate cash, however, half of the capital gains are taxed at your marginal rate (the rate you pay based on your overall income).
A capital gain is a profit from the original investment. There is a bright side if you are selling an equity that has gone down from its original value, however. Half of capital losses can be used to recoup taxes paid on capital gains over the previous three years, or can be used to offset future capital gains.
TFSA: PROBABLY THE BEST IDEA
There is no tax on capital gains, and therefore no tax break from capital losses on investments sold in a tax-free savings account (TFSA).
In fact, there is no tax on any gains or contributions in a tax-free savings account.
Cash withdrawals from a TFSA can be made at any time but for those who contribute the maximum amount it’s important to know that allowable contribution space will not be renewed until the following calendar year.
HELOC: NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Like a TFSA, money withdrawn from a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or reverse mortgage is never taxed.
Both are loans against the equity in your home and interest is charged on the balance owed. That interest compounds over time until the full loan is paid back; either at the homeowner’s choosing, when the house is sold, or the owner dies.
Tapping into home equity has been the most common solution for homeowners who need quick cash but rising interest rates have increased the costs dramatically.
The interest rate on a HELOC is tied to the lender’s prime lending rate, which is tied to the Bank of Canada benchmark rate. With more central bank rate increases on the horizon, the interest rate on a typical HELOC has risen to about five per cent from under two per cent in less than a year.
Reverse mortgage rates are tied to conventional fixed mortgage rates, which are also rising dramatically. The fixed rates on reverse mortgages are currently around seven per cent.
If you repay the balance on the line of credit quickly, the interest cost is capped. If financing is a chronic problem, the best course of action from a tax perspective could be to sell the house. There is no capital gains tax on the sale of a principal residence.
RRSP: THE LAST RESORT
Registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) withdraws are fully taxable according your marginal income tax rate in the year of the withdrawal (unless borrowed for a fixed term for a down payment on a first home or continuing education).
If you are generating a full-time income from work, you will be taxed at a higher marginal rate than if your income is low.
If you have suffered a loss or drop in income, an RRSP withdrawal could make sense. If you are under 65 years old, a withholding tax will likely be imposed based on the size of the withdrawal. Any amount above the amount you actually owe will be refunded.
9 Types Of Investment Assets
When investing, stocks get the lion’s share of the attention. Investing in individual stocks is one way to grow your wealth, but there are plenty of other investment assets to explore and understand.
Depending on your financial goals, timeline and risk tolerance, you should invest in a well-diversified combination of the following nine assets to build your portfolio.
Stocks are the basic building blocks of investing. When you buy stocks—frequently referred to as equities—you receive shares of ownership in a public company.
As the company grows and earns greater profits, the value of your shares of stock should appreciate. You may even be entitled to dividend payments as a shareholder.
Here are four ways to think about the different stocks available:
- Growth stocks. These are companies that are growing their revenues, cash flow and earnings at rates that are much greater than their peers.
- Value stocks. Very often, the share prices of perfectly solid and healthy public companies drop well below where they should be, due to larger market developments outside of the company’s control. When a stock’s price is low like this but its business fundamentals are good, it’s called a value stock.
- Dividend stocks. Companies that pay dependable dividends are viewed as providing shareholder a steady stream of income.
- Blue-chip stocks. These are the stocks of large, established public companies that have become household names, like Apple, Disney and Microsoft. Blue-chip stocks have a proven track record of dependable performance and a history of regular dividend payments.
To buy stocks, you need an account. You can opt for a tax-advantaged account such as an individual retirement account (IRA), or a taxable brokerage account.
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Bonds are fixed-income securities that corporations and governments issue to raise money to fund projects. When you buy a bond, you lend money to the issuer. In exchange, the bond issuer pays you interest and, once the bond reaches its maturity date, the issuer returns your original investment.
Bonds are less risky than stocks, but they also offer lower returns. If interest rates rise, bonds become less valuable because new bonds offer higher rates.
To buy bonds, you can purchase them directly from an issuer, or you can buy them through a brokerage account.
When financial professionals refer to cash as an investment, they’re not talking about literal bills and coins. Instead, cash investments—commonly called cash equivalents—are short-term investments that provide stability to your investment portfolio.
Common examples of cash investments include the following:
- Money market funds. These mutual funds invest in government bonds, tax-exempt municipal bonds and corporate or bank debt securities.
- Treasury bills. Known as T-bills, these are short-term investments issued by the U.S. government with maturities ranging from four to 52 weeks.
- Certificates of deposits (CDs). CDs are deposit accounts that usually offer higher rates than savings accounts. CDs have terms ranging from a few months to several years, and the money cannot be touched before the end of the CD term without incurring significant penalties.
Cash equivalents are useful if you have short-term financial goals and will need the money within a few months. They are also appealing to retired investors that can’t afford to take on much risk.
You can invest in cash equivalents through banks or TreasuryDirect.gov. Some brokerage firms also offer brokered CD accounts.
4. Mutual Funds
A mutual fund pools money from investors to invest in groups of stocks, bonds and other securities. Its combined holdings, known as a portfolio, are managed by experienced financial professionals.
There are several types of mutual funds:
- Stock mutual funds. A stock mutual fund is a collection of stocks chosen by a professional money manager. The fund is typically designed to track a market index, such as the S&P 500.
- Bond mutual funds. Bond mutual funds invest solely in bonds rather than stocks. These funds provide stability to an investment portfolio and typically have lower returns than stock mutual funds.
- Balanced funds. These mutual funds own a mix of both stocks and bonds, typically with a fixed asset allocation such as 60% stocks and 40% bonds.
Compared with individual stocks, mutual funds are lower-risk investment assets. By investing in a mutual fund, you diversify your portfolio by owning many stocks or other securities at once.
There are thousands of mutual funds, but we’ve identified the best mutual funds to help you get started. If you’re ready to invest your money, you can buy mutual funds through your brokerage account.
5. Index Funds
Index funds are a form of mutual fund that’s passively managed and best suited for long-term investors.
While many mutual funds are actively managed by professionals who try to beat the performance of a market benchmark, index funds aim to replicate the performance of market indexes, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) or the S&P 500.
Like standard mutual funds, index funds provide diversification since you invest in many companies or industries at one time. If one company within the fund performs poorly, the other companies within the portfolio may offset the losses.
You can buy index funds through your employer-sponsored retirement plan or your brokerage account.
6. Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)
Like mutual funds, ETFs pool money from investors to buy baskets of securities, including stocks and bonds. ETFs can track market indices or they can be focused on particular sectors, such as foreign energy companies or domestic technology securities.
ETFs tend to have lower investment minimums than mutual funds, so they’re a good choice for new investors without a lot of cash on hand. Like stocks, they are bought and sold on market exchanges throughout the day.
You can buy ETFs through brokerage accounts and employer-sponsored retirement plans. If you are new to investing, our guide to the best ETFs could be a good starting point for you.
An annuity is a contract between an individual and an insurance company. When you purchase an annuity, you pay the insurance company in installments or a lump sum.
In exchange, the insurance company agrees to make periodic payments to you for a set period. Many people typically use annuities to get a steady stream of income in retirement.
There are three main types of annuities:
- Fixed annuities. A fixed annuity pays a guaranteed interest rate for a preset period. Once the accumulation phase is complete, you will receive payments for a set period, such as 10 to 20 years.
- Variable annuities. A variable annuity does not have a guaranteed interest rate. The interest rate and payments will fluctuate based on the performance of the underlying investments, such as stocks and bonds.
- Index annuities. With an index annuity, interest and payments are determined by the performance of a stock market index, such as the Nasdaq Composite.
You can invest in annuities by working with an insurance company, bank or investment broker.
Derivatives are financial instruments whose values are based on an underlying asset. The three most common types of derivatives are futures, options and swaps.
- Futures contracts. Futures contracts are agreements to buy or sell an asset at a future date and price. For example, you may agree to buy gold at $1,000 per ounce six months from now. If the price of gold goes up to $1,200 per ounce, you will profit from the difference. However, if the price falls to $800 per ounce, you will incur a loss.
- Options contracts. These contracts are much like futures, but buyers have the right—but not the obligation—to buy or sell an asset at a future date and price. Call options give you the right to buy an asset, while put options give you the right to sell an asset.
- Swaps. These are agreements between two parties to exchange cash flows in the future. For example, one party may agree to pay another party a fixed interest rate in exchange for a variable interest rate.
Derivatives can be used to speculate on future price movements or to hedge against losses. However, they tend to be complex, risky investment assets, so they may not be a good idea for the average retail investor.
As an investment asset, cryptocurrency has received a lot of buzz. The most well-known cryptocurrency is Bitcoin (BTC), but there are many others. Top cryptocurrencies include Ethereum (ETH) and XRP (XRP)
Investing in cryptocurrencies is risky, as their prices can be highly volatile. These assets are also not regulated like other investment assets, like stocks and bonds. But that may change as governments take a wider interest in applying more regulations to the sector.
Commonwealth trains Cameroonian officials to attract inward investment
A workshop, hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Institute for investment Treaties, has trained Cameroonian government officials to attract foreign capital by better negotiating investment agreements.
Held in Yaoundé from 22 to 24 November, the workshop was a vital platform for senior legal affairs officials from various government agencies to strengthen their understanding of bilateral investment treaties and necessary policies to limit their negative impacts, including lawsuits.
Negotiating bilateral investment agreements is a policy issue for developing countries. Most such treaties are signed between capital-exporting developed countries and capital-importing developing nations.
Despite their positive impact, clauses of bilateral investment treaties can impose constraints on host countries. For instance, investors can sue governments if national policy harms their interests. These investor-state lawsuits are often unpredictable and can cost taxpayers a significant amount of money.
Opening the workshop, Chinmoun Oumar, Permanent Secretary of Cameroon’s Ministry of External Affairs, thanked the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Institute for investment Treaties for hosting the “timely” workshop.
He informed the participants that Cameroon was involved in several ongoing negotiations related to investment facilitation, but it lacked sufficient expertise to fully engage with its foreign partners. Oumar hoped the workshop would enable “Cameroon to build a formidable team of legal experts who could contribute to the ongoing and future negotiations”.
Speaking at the workshop, Opeyemi Abebe, Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Trade Competitiveness Section, said:
“This workshop will enable Cameroonian officials to better promote and protect their national economic and development interests. We hope officials will now have a greater awareness of the implications of bilateral investment treaties for national policy and how to mitigate them, ensuring that foreign investment flows contribute to their country’s development objectives.”
The workshop featured a series of plenaries and best practices to help Cameroonian officials rethink what obligations they should include in their future investment agreements and whether to reform existing treaties in line with national interests. Participants also discussed investor-state dispute settlement practices and a roadmap to reform Cameroon’s investment treaties, especially in view of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The workshop was hosted at the request of Cameroon’s Ministry of Mines, Industry and Technological Development and Ministry of External Affairs.
- Snober Abbasi Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
- T: +442077476168 | E-mail
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