Some KiwiSaver investors who have their money in a conservative fund have been shocked by recent performance. Typically, these types of funds have been seen as “less risky”, but given their recent losses you too most likely want to know why these types of funds are losing money.
The performance of conservative funds are strongly linked with interest rates. If interest rates go up, as they have been recently, then the investments of the fund will generally go down in value (which leads to negative returns). However, if interest rates go down then the investments of the fund may go up in value (which leads to positive returns).
Why are interest rates going up?
Interest rates are increasing because our official cash rate (and many around the world) has been going up. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (and other major central banks around the world) uses the official cash rate as a tool to set interest rates that try to fight inflation.
Their hope is that interest rate increases will lead to a slowdown in demand and therefore lower inflation. One example of this is that people may decide to spend less on products because of the higher interest rates. The idea is that there is a flow-on effect so that companies will begin to charge less for their products as they see people beginning to spend less.
The amount that we spend/purchase and the amount companies charge for their products are part of what affects whether interest rates go up or down. For instance, if demand does slow down enough then this might mean interest rates may not need to rise anymore.
Interest rates and inflation are not just influenced by what happens locally, but are also influenced by what happens around the world. In the recent past, we have had very low interest rates. Sudden big events, such as the war in Ukraine and COVID, may be part of the surprising inflation we are currently experiencing – and the big increase in interest rates we are experiencing now.
We at Christian KiwiSaver Scheme have certainly been doing our best to minimise these negative returns, however when the market has been performing this way it is sometimes difficult to do so.
Our investment style, with a focus on capital preservation and diversification, aims to reduce the losses that can prevail in these more uncertain periods.