October 19, 2017 / 10:03 PM / a year ago

Fidelity retirement funds warm to Canada, cool to emerging markets

BOSTON (Reuters) - Fidelity Investments has cut exposure to red-hot emerging markets stocks in its age-based retirement funds while putting more money into Canadian stocks and U.S. government bonds.

A sign marks a Fidelity Investments office in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

The shift, reflected in a Morningstar Inc report released on Thursday, shows how the $200 billion-plus Fidelity Freedom Funds franchise is taking a slightly more defensive posture in portfolios that invest the retirement savings of more than 6 million American workers.

Fidelity said that in September, the Freedom Funds cut exposure to international growth and value stocks while reducing its overweight to emerging market equities.

Across all the Freedom Funds’ strategies, Fidelity cut the emerging markets overweight exposure to 2-3 percent from the previous level of 3-4 percent, company spokeswoman Nicole Goodnow said.

“We continue to maintain an overweight position in (emerging market) equity after this move, but the size of the overweight has been reduced,” Goodnow said.

Some of the money taken from the overseas stocks was shifted into Canadian stocks and long-term U.S. Treasury paper, Fidelity said.

The $30 billion Fidelity Freedom 2020 Fund (FFFDX.O), for example, cut its exposure to an emerging market stocks fund to 6.88 percent of assets in September from 7.94 percent in the prior month. The overweight exposure to emerging markets was cut to 2.5 percent from 3.5 percent, Goodnow said.

Meanwhile, the 2020 fund boosted its exposure to a newly formed Canada stocks fund to 0.62 percent of assets from 0.11 percent in the previous month, Fidelity disclosures show.

Fidelity Freedom Funds operate as a fund-of-funds structure in which each age-based portfolio invests in about two dozen underlying Fidelity funds. The 2020 fund, for example, is for investors who plan to retire near that date.

During September, $1.8 billion was pulled from the $16 billion Fidelity Series Emerging Markets Fund, which has become one of the largest single holdings in Freedom Fund portfolios, according to Morningstar. By contrast, more than $900 million streamed into the Fidelity Series Canada Fund. It has $1.5 billion in assets since being formed in August to become an investment option in Freedom Fund portfolios.

In recent years, Fidelity Freedom Funds have increased their exposure to overseas stocks, including emerging markets. That bet has paid off, as MSCI’s benchmark emerging markets index .MSCIEF is up nearly 31 percent this year, outpacing the 14 percent advance on the S&P 500 Index.

Reporting By Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Dan Grebler

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