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Irish pension funds have lost another 10% in the first few weeks of 2008 wiping an additional €10 billion off the value of pension assets

According to figures released by pension consultants Mercer today, the average Irish pension fund has lost another 10% in the first few weeks of 2008 thus wiping an additional €10billion off the value of pension assets.

Mercer says that this is certainly unwelcome news for trustees and members of such funds particularly in light of 2007 performance which saw the average fund lose close to 4%.

However, Mercer has cautioned pension funds against taking any knee-jerk reactions in response to the current market volatility. Tom Geraghty, Worldwide Partner and head of investment consulting at Mercer, said: "We would caution trustees against taking rash decisions at this time. What is needed is a measured reassessment of investment strategy against current market and economic conditions. Pension fund investment strategy is set with a long-term framework in mind, and implementation of any strategic change requires careful planning. We have seen such volatility in equity markets in the recent past and those investors who resisted the temptation to make any knee-jerk reactions ultimately fared better in the long run. The temptation is strong but I would urge against trying to 'time the market' by making daring investment calls. History has shown that such a strategy just doesn't pay off".

Mr. Geraghty added: "Any action needed will depend on the particular circumstances facing individual pension funds. Considerations should include whether trustees have already adopted a defensive strategic position. Another factor is pain tolerance - that is, the ability of a pension fund to 'ride it out' and make good any shortfalls should the situation fail to improve."

However in relation to the individual investor, perhaps the advice of Warren Buffet holds true at this time: "The time to be afraid is when everyone else is greedy and the time to be greedy is when everyone else is afraid".

Geraghty observed: "There's no doubt that we have entered a period of fear in the markets, sentiment is as negative as we’ve ever seen and everyone is convinced that recession is upon us. The brave investor who follows a contrarian view and invests accordingly may well gain from the current market fear and volatility".

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