The average nominal return on investments over the past 10 years is now 5.5% per year.Varma said its investment returns developed strongly during the first half of the year, but uncertainty in investment markets caused the result to fluctuate considerably during the second half.The last quarter in particular was very turbulent.Reima Rytsölä, CIO at Varma, said: “The investment result was improved by a fairly strong focus on the US markets. Instead of a stagnant Europe, we were involved in a growing economy.”Returns were generated consistently across the different asset classes.Equities – which make up 41% of the portfolio, including 32% in listed stocks and 6% in private equity – were the best performers, with a 9.1% return (21.8% in 2013).The decline in interest rates ensured the return on fixed income investments was also good, at 5.5% (compared with 1.2% in 2013).At end-2014, fixed income made up 30% of investments.Returns were also boosted by hedge fund investments, which returned 7.8%, compared with 8.8% in 2013.The weighting had been increased early in 2014, taking the allocation to 17% by end-2014, compared with 13% the previous year.Real estate returned 3.8% over 2014, increasing from 3.1% the year before. The asset class made up 10% of the portfolio at end-2014.Rytsölä said: “It is realistic to expect lean times for investors. Interest rates are hovering around zero, and if economic growth does not pick up, the return on equities might also remain modest.”The company warned that the economic environment remained challenging for Finland.It said the change in the value of the euro and the drop in the price of oil would promote growth this year and next.But growth forecasts remain moderate with respect to recent history, and for investors, the interest rates especially are dramatically low.Risto Murto, president and chief executive at Varma, said: “We are used to a situation where low interest rates reflect a strong economy and stable currency, but that is not the case now. The record-low interest rate levels indicate economic problems, not strengths.”Meanwhile, during 2014, the company wrote premiums totalling €4.3bn and paid pensions of €5bn. Varma Mutual Pension Insurance, Finland’s largest earnings-related pension insurer and private investor, has announced a return on investments for calendar 2014 of 7.1% (€2.7bn), taking its solvency to a record high level.By the end of last year, its investment portfolio had reached €40bn – again, a record high – from €37.7bn the year before, while solvency capital was at €10.3bn, compared with €9.1bn at end-2013.This meant solvency capital amounted to 34% of technical provisions (31.6% in 2013).However, returns were lower than the previous year’s €3.2bn (9%).
Mike Walton from Seia Garden and Maintenance prunes back his tropical garden during the dry months of the year. PICTURE: STEWART MCLEANTHE extremes of temperature, rainfall and heat the Far North experiences means keeping home gardens and lawns looking great all year round takes some planning.Some of the gardeners on the front line of Cairns’ green space have plenty of tips on what homeowners should do now to reap the benefits of tidy, luscious, tropical vegetation come December.Mow & Mulch Lawn & Garden Maintenance owner Cady Hansen said this time of year, when the growth rate of plants and lawns had slowed down, was perfect for getting stuck into big jobs. Mowing lawns don’t need to be mown as often during Winter, according to the experts, including this beautifully maintained property atTrinity Park. Source: Realestate.com.auWhile it is not needing to be tended every week to remove weeds, Seia Gardening and Maintenance owner Mike Walton recommends doing a quick pH test of soil in garden beds to check conditions and then adding lime or dynamic lifter to ready the earth for planting. “The best time to plant trees, flowering shrubs or vegetable depends on the plant but it’s probably not a good time to do it when it’s not raining,” he said. “The temperature needs to come up a bit to help the vegetables grow. I’d probably start in November. Anything in the garden before that should be hard landscaping — reconditioning the garden beds and mulching. Winter is the perfect time to tidy up the garden making it like this pristine property at 3 Ewan Glen, Trinity Park. It’s on the market at offers over $469,000. Source: Realestate.com.au“It’s time to get stuff down like getting the big stuff chopped out, get rid of overhanging branches and trees which could be posing a problem,” he said. “It’s a good time to do mulching — we recommend 100mm thick mulch, which, no matter what mulch you use, it’ll get you through the year.”More from newsCairns home ticks popular internet search terms3 days agoTen auction results from ‘active’ weekend in Cairns3 days ago“We’re not mowing every fortnight at this time of the year. What we do with a lot of people is we say we’re not mowing but we’ll get the gardens back up to scratch. “Once the wet season comes it’s full on and we can’t keep up with inquiries.” Now is the time to chop back bigger plants like the homeowners at38 Yule Avenue, Clifton Beach, have done. The home is on the market priced at offers over $649,000. Source: Realestate.com.au“Homeowners need to prepare for the wet and chop everything back so new plants can grow out.”Landscaping to create drainage systems so gardens aren’t drowning come summer and ensuring trees and bushes are pruned away from houses or sheds is also a great job for the winter months.High pressure cleaning of paved or concreted areas will also increase the appeal of a yard and remove slippery mould, mildew, algae and fungus. SEE MORE CAIRNS REAL ESTATE NEWS HERE