A record $4.5 billion was wiped off the value of KiwiSaver funds in the March quarter as markets tumbled amid the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The total value of KiwiSaver funds fell from $63.6b as of the end of 2019 to $59.1b on March 31, Morningstar figures show.

Tim Murphy, Morningstar director of manager research, Asia-Pacific, said the March quarter returns reflected underlying weakness in global share markets.

"Covid-19 has gripped financial markets with anxiety regarding the virus' increasing global reach seemingly intensifying with every breaking media headline," he said.

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Many global share markets fell more than 30 per cent during the March quarter but the New Zealand S&P/NZX50 was down 14.8 per cent.

"While any drawdown is never ideal, New Zealand was one of the best performing markets in the world over this period, helping KiwiSaver investors achieve better outcomes than might have been the case with similar schemes in other countries."

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In Australia the S&P/ASX200 was down 23.1 per cent in the March quarter while the MSCI World Index was down 21 per cent for the quarter in US dollars although New Zealand investors' losses were cushioned by a fall in the kiwi dollar against the greenback which reduced the fall to 10.2 per cent.

The average return for conservative KiwiSaver funds over the quarter was -2.2 per cent while the aggressive category saw the biggest average loss at -14.5 per cent.

Very few funds had positive returns over the quarter.

Of those funds which Morningstar covers with at least a one year track record the top performer for the conservative category was the FANZ Lifestages KiwiSaver Income fund which was up 0.6 per cent, while the Juno KiwiSaver Growth fund topped the balanced category with a return of -7 per cent.

Booster KiwiSaver SRI Growth was the best performer for the growth category at -9.7 per cent.

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Murphy said the Juno funds had benefited from having large cash positions which provided downside protection as share markets plunged. Last year Juno funds lagged rivals due to the same high cash position as share markets rose strongly.

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Over the year to March 31 average returns ranged from 2.2 per cent for the conservative funds down to -4.5 per cent, the average return for aggressive funds.

Murphy said it was most appropriate to assess performance of a KiwiSaver fund over the longer term and over 10 years growth funds remained the best performers averaging an annual return of 8 per cent.

ANZ remains the largest KiwiSaver provider with $13.9b in funds under management, followed by ASB with $10.8b and Westpac with $6.8b.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website