The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest pension in the U.S., said it earned 2.4 percent last fiscal year, below its target rate as financial-market turbulence depressed stock and bond returns.
The $300 billion fund earned 1 percent on public-equity holdings and 1.3 percent in fixed-income investments, said Ted Eliopoulos, chief investment officer. Real estate returned 13.5 percent, while private equity gained 8.9 percent.
Calpers must average at least 7.5 percent a year to match its assumed rate of return or turn to taxpayers to make up the difference. Calpers is among pensions under pressure to boost investment returns as their unfunded liabilities tripled to almost $2 trillion from 2004 through 2013, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
“We try not to get too fixated or excited by any one-year return, whether it’s 18 percent from last year or a 2.4 percent return this year,” Eliopoulos told the pension’s governing board Monday at the start of a three-day meeting in Walnut Creek, a suburb of San Francisco.
Calpers said it has earned 10.9 percent over a three-year period and 10.7 percent over five years. Its real-estate and private-equity returns lag by a quarter.
“The fund is outperforming our policy benchmark for the three-year period and for the five-year period,” Eliopoulos, 51, said. “That is the first time the fund has outperformed both of these time periods since 2007, which represents another milestone in the recovery of our portfolio.”
Eliopoulos said Calpers is reviewing its $2.2 billion it has invested in forestland and timber after losing 0.3 percent in the fiscal year, more than 1,000 basis points below its benchmark. He called the loss a “rather dramatic underperformance.” Pensions invest in forestland to generate long-term, stable income and to hedge against inflation.
The results for the fiscal year that ended June 30 are the latest in a string of wide swings in its year-over-year investment returns amid stock market volatility since the last Great Recession began in December 2007.
Calpers lost a quarter of its value in 2009. Two years later, it earned a record 20.7 percent only to see the gain drop to 1 percent one year later. Since the recession, the fund has sought to better gauge its risks from market volatility.
The S&P 500 gained 4.6 percent in the 12 months that ended June 30 as a five-year bull market slowed amid concerns that Greece and China’s economies could crater, and that the Federal Reserve would increase interest rates.
In September, the fund announced plans to dump its entire $4 billion in hedge-fund investments, citing their complexity and cost.
In June, the pension said it plans to sell as much as $3 billion of its real-estate portfolio and to reduce the number of outside managers the fund hires from about 200 to about 100 by 2020 to lower fees paid to Wall Street.
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