Hunt plans to invest YOUR pension in world’s worst major stock market. Is he mad? | Personal Finance | Finance


Yesterday, Hunt said he would “shine a light” on our company pension pots to make our retirement savings work harder. He plans to force firms to publish their performance figures on a pension fund comparison site, to show how well they’re doing.

It’s a good idea but will probably never happen. Pension companies will do their level best to kill it off, just as they have with the perennially delayed pensions dashboard.

Hunt has another plan. This one is a bit more worrying.

He wants pension funds to channel the tens of billions they take in member contributions into the shares of British companies rather than foreign ones.

Again, it’s a great idea: a “Buy British” campaign for investors. There’s only one problem. UK shares are among the worst performing in the world.

If Hunt forces pension managers to channel our retirement savings into domestic stocks, we could all be a lot poorer when we reach retirement.

Since the financial crisis, the US stock market has smashed ours. I see this in my own personal pension.

My US S&P 500 index tracker has rocketed more than 300 percent. My FTSE 100 tracker has returned just 75 percent.

On a £100,000 investment, that’s the difference between ending up with £400,000 and £175,000. In other words, huge.

The US stock market has made me much richer but Hunt wants us to invest in the UK instead?

Wall Street shares soared 25 percent last year. So far in 2024, it’s up another 8.31 percent.

Last year, the FTSE 100 crept up a pathetic 2.4 percent. This year it’s down 0.51 percent.

Is this where Hunt wants us to invest?

European, Japanese and even Chinese stock markets have also flown to all-time highs in a global stock market rally to which the UK hasn’t been invited.

The FTSE 100 has barely risen since the start of the millennium. That’s almost a quarter of a century ago.

Hunt’s plans will make us all poorer. Has he gone mad?

Actually, no. I have some sympathy with what he is trying to do.

Twenty years ago, UK pensions and insurance firms owned almost 40 percent of the UK stock market. Now their share has collapsed to just four percent.

The greatest single source of demand for UK shares has been withdrawn. And that’s a key reason why UK equities are trailing so horribly.

This doesn’t happen in other countries where pension fund managers are far more likely to support their domestic market.

It’s alarming to see ours abandon the UK stock market, just when we need them most. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is rightly battling to reverse the trend.

READ MORE: Everyone hates UK shares – 3 reasons Isa investors should buy them now

The US stock market has thrashed the world in the last decade thanks to the so-called Magnficent Seven tech stocks, led by Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia and Tesla.

It’s only right that pension fund managers chase the best possible returns for members – you and me, in other words.

Yet this risks turning into a vicious circle. A key reason why the UK market performs poorly is that big UK institutions have fled the field.

Today, UK shares look incredibly cheap compared to global rivals. Pension funds may not want them, but predatory US corporations and private equity firms are launching raid after raid.

With UK valuations at 30-year lows, they can’t believe how cheap our companies are. Currys and Direct Line are the latest targets. British Gas owner Centrica and budget airline easyJet may be next.

Other firms have seen the writing on the wall and are upping sticks. Since UK semiconductor giant ARM snubbed London to float in New York last September, its shares have rocketed.

Yet at today’s dizzying levels, US tech stocks look dangerously overvalued and could crash. Nvidia in particular has flown too far, too fast.

Now may be a good time to switch money in the UK’s unloved stock market. It’s now one of the cheapest in the world and ripe for a comeback.

Hunt is right to raise the flag for UK shares, while we still have a stock market worth saving. He might have got his timing right, too.

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