October 6, 2016 / 6:03 AM / 10 months ago

Japan insurer Aioi Nissay says would like steeper yield curve

3 Min Read

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan's decision to set a target for 10-year government bond yields is a good start but it would like to see the yield curve steepen a bit more and boost profits and returns for investors, Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance said on Thursday.

Aioi Nissay Dowa, which has about three trillion yen (22.81 billion pounds) in assets, is the non-life insurance arm of MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings Inc, Japan's biggest property and casualty insurance group.

"We have a positive view of the latest BOJ policy change as it considers the fact that long-term yields had fallen excessively low. But we would like to see the yield curve steepen a little further," Naoki Fujiwara, general manager at its investment planning department, told Reuters in an interview.

The 10-year Japanese government bond yield fell to a record low of minus 0.300 percent early in July, ironing the yield curve flat.

It has moved between 0.005 percent and minus 0.090 percent since the BOJ introduced measures to control the yield curve on Sept. 21. The BOJ said it would aim to keep the 10-year yield at around zero percent.

The BOJ says that by directly targeting short- and long-term rates, it can more efficiently reduce borrowing costs while allowing for a rise in super-long yields, which would help firms like insurers give pensioners better investment returns.

Aioi Nissay said it holds about 30 percent of its assets in domestic stocks and 60 percent in yen bonds.

"We will keep yen bonds at the core of our assets. But as they don't yield very much, we have been spreading out into foreign bonds and alternative instruments," Fujiwara said.

"As for foreign bonds, it has become harder to make currency hedged investments. We have reduced the ratio of our hedged foreign bond investments."

The insurer will retain G7 government debt, notably U.S. Treasuries, as its main foreign bond investments in the second half of fiscal 2016.

Hedging dollar-denominated investments have become more expensive as U.S. and Japanese monetary policies are seen moving in opposite directions, increasing the cost of compensating for the expected divergence in returns.

Strong demand from Japanese investors for foreign assets has also increased currency hedging costs.

Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro and Takefumi Ito; Editing by Kim Coghill

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