Global Portfolio Asset Holdings Decrease Amid Elevated Uncertainty – Analysis

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A Chinese insurance company buys listed shares of a Swiss bank. A UK pension fund invests in US Treasury bonds. A multinational tech company holds shares of an investment fund in the Cayman Islands.

All the above are examples of portfolio investment assets. These can include both equity and debt securities, though they differ from direct investments in that investors do not control the management of the units in which they invest.

Foreign portfolio investments help global financial markets function and provide investors with the benefits of international diversification. These investments are also beneficial as a source of financing for host economies.

Unlike foreign direct investment, portfolio investments tend to be volatile and, if not well monitored and managed, they can trigger macroeconomic challenges such as overheating of the host economy, loss of export competitiveness due to exchange rate appreciation, and higher vulnerability in the event of a crisis.

Our latest Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey shows that, amid multiple shocks, global portfolio investment asset holdings decreased by 15 percent in the first half of last year, the most since 2008. The decrease is attributed to both the reduction in investments and valuation effects.

Elevated risk aversion amid increasing energy prices, heightened geopolitical and inflation risks, and tightening monetary policies in advanced economies weighed heavily on capital markets and portfolio investments. The newest CPIS looks at cross-border portfolio investment holdings through June.

As the Chart of the Week shows, the top 10 portfolio investment holding countries, collectively accounting for about two-thirds of global positions tracked by the CPIS, experienced a sharp decline since the last reporting period six months earlier.

The drop was largely driven by a decline in investments by the United States (in Germany and the Netherlands), Luxembourg (in the United States, Ireland, and Japan), Ireland (in the United States and United Kingdom), and Japan (mainly in the United States). On the other hand, portfolio investment holdings of the Cayman Islands increased by 6.2 percent due to investments in the United States and Japan.

The IMF’s CPIS collects data on portfolio investment assets from more than 80 countries. It is the only global bi-annual survey of cross-border portfolio holdings by counterpart economy and by sector of holders and nonresident issuers. It shows which countries invest in a particular country, how the investments are distributed across institutional sectors as well as the currency distribution of such assets. Complete results are available at

*About the authors:

  • Evrim Bese Goksu is a Senior Economist at the Balance of Payments Division of the IMF Statistics Department (STA). Besides providing technical assistance to member countries on external sector statistics, she also contributes to STA’s work on international statistical methodologies. She has been working in STA since 2013 including at its Financial Institutions Division and the Front Office.
  • Alicia Hierro is a Senior Economist at the Balance of Payments Division of the IMF Statistics Department (STA). She has been working in STA since 2009 including at its Financial Institutions Division. Prior to her work at the IMF, she worked in the Bank of Spain as financial controller and as balance of payments compiler, contributing among others to the launch of the CPIS.
  • Rita Mesías is a Senior Economist of the Balance of Payments Division, IMF Statistics Department (STABP). Before joining STABP, she worked in the STA Government Finance Statistics (STAGO) and during 2015-2017, she participated in an inter-institutional exchange with Eurostat/European Commission in Luxembourg.
  • Wilson C.K. Phiri is a Senior Economist in the Balance of Payments Division of the Statistics Department of the IMF. Prior to joining the Fund in February 2022, he served as an Assistant Director responsible for Macroeconomic Analysis at the Bank of Zambia.

Source: This article was published by IMF Blog

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