Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vatican backs new equities index

Investors are being invited to put money into a new Catholic equities index that is being backed by the Vatican, which will not invest in companies connected to gambling or birth control, among other activities.

European index provider Stoxx launched the Stoxx Europe Christian index today.

It takes companies in the Stoxx Europe 600 index and excludes companies that do not meet predetermined tolerance levels for activities including pornography, arms, gambling and birth control.

The criteria that underlie the index are decided by an independent committee, led by US asset manager Christian Brothers Investment Services, which specialises in socially responsible investing according to Catholic principles.

Other members of the committee include representatives of the Vatican, the Missionary International Service News Agency, and academics and professional investors.

A spokeswoman for Stoxx said the index was created in response to client demand. At least one company is planning an actively managed fund that will use the index as a benchmark, she said, but declined to reveal any details.

Historical performance of the index, extrapolated back to the end of 2004, is largely in line with the Stoxx Europe 600 index.

Over the last three years to the close of markets on Friday, both indices are down 30%, according to Stoxx.

The news comes after the Church has suffered from repeated allegations of widespread abuse by Catholic priests, along with accusations that senior officials in the Church, including the Pope, failed to deal with the problems appropriately.

The Vatican did not respond to requests for comment.


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