The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lost $10.2 billion on its investments in the first half of this year as inflation fears rocked stock markets.
New reports filed with U.S. regulators indicate the value of the immense church account managed by the faith’s investment arm, Salt Lake City-based Ensign Peak Advisors, fell to $42 billion as of the end of June, after two quarters of declines.
That put this portfolio of stocks and mutual funds on par with where it was in late 2020, after reaching a two-year high of $52.3 billion near the end of 2021. The account then lost $3.1 billion in the first three months of 2022, followed by a $7.1 billion drop in April, May and June.
The second-quarter loss represented a 14.5% decline for the Utah-based faith’s Ensign Peak holdings, the portfolio’s largest quarterly fall since it nose-dived by $8 billion, or 23.3%, in early 2020 with the U.S. onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
For comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped by 11.3% during the most recent quarter as investors fretted over inflation, interest rates hikes and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The fund remains ahead by $12.2 billion, or 40.9%, compared to its pandemic low of $29.9 billion, according to reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The once-secretive fund began reporting to federal regulators in early 2020, just months after a former Ensign Peak fund manager accused the church in an IRS whistleblower complaint of amassing up to $100 billion in reserve funds from excess tithing that had been intended for, but not spent, on charity.
Devout Latter-day Saints pay a tenth of their yearly incomes to the church in tithing, and ecclesiastical leaders have said publicly and in court documents they deem those funds sacred.
Church officials have portrayed the Ensign Peak fund as a “rainy day” account kept along with other investments, church-owned businesses and extensive landholdings to buffer the global faith of 16.8 million members from economic downturns and to help pay for its ministerial, philanthropic, educational and missionary works around the world.
Ensign Peak’s first report to the SEC, filed in February 2020, showed the fund held $37.8 billion just before its pandemic plunge.
Reports show fund managers have spread the portfolio’s investments significantly since then, diversifying from 1,622 different stocks and mutual funds in early 2020 to 2,162 positions in the latest quarter.
Its top investments, though, are centered on blue-chip technology companies, financial operations, and energy and health care firms. At the top are $2.2 billion and $2.1 billion in shares of technology giants Apple and Microsoft, respectively.
Half the account’s total value is now held in 42 stocks, including UnitedHealth Group, Johnson & Johnson, Exxon Mobil and consumer retail favorites such as Walmart, Procter & Gamble and Home Depot.
Along with Apple and Microsoft, the church account holds $1.5 billion in Google shares; $962 million in Amazon; and $484 million in Facebook. Those five tech stocks represent $7.2 billion, or about 17% of the portfolio’s value, down from $9.4 billion the previous quarter.
In the last quarter of 2019, those tech stocks made up $5.5 billion of Ensign Peak’s holdings, or about 14.5% of its total value.
The account also holds shares in a wide array of mutual funds dedicated to investing in specific sectors of the economy, including technology, communication services, energy, financials, real estate, regional banks, discretionary consumer products, consumer staples, health care, industrial firms, utilities and materials producers.
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