In the fourth quarter of 2012, insurers' bond portfolio rose to EUR 193 billion. For 2012 as a whole, the increase amounted to EUR 18 billion, half of which was the result of net purchases. Whereas in the third quarter bond sales slowed down, investors' appetite in the final quarter of 2012 picked up again and insurers bought long-term paper to the tune of EUR 2 billion. The geographical shifts in the portfolio were considerable. On balance, long-term debt paper of 45 countries was sold to an amount of EUR 2 billion. For instance, holdings in French bonds were further reduced to EUR 23 billion through sales again totalling almost EUR 1 billion. In addition, as in the previous quarter, long-term Dutch paper was sold, albeit for smaller amounts; price gains ensured the position was sustained at EUR 57 billion.
Bonds from countries including Canada, Austria and the United States were also sold. On the other hand, on balance EUR 4 billion worth of long-term paper from 54 countries was bought. Exposures to Belgian and Finnish paper were further expanded, as were those to EU bonds. Measured by size, the largest purchases related to German bonds (EUR 1.7 billion). These purchases and price gains led to an increase in the exposure to Germany, which rose to EUR 47 billion. With EUR 43 billion in government paper, this portfolio only just exceeds that of Dutch government bonds.