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Funds News

UPDATE 3-CalPERS reports worst year since 2009 amid market volatility

(Recasts first paragraph, adds background on historical performance and investment return target)

ROHNERT PARK, Calif., July 18 (Reuters) - California’s largest public pension fund posted a 0.61 percent return on investment in its most recent fiscal year, its worst showing since 2009, which it blamed on global market volatility.

The result marked the second straight year the California Public Employees’ Retirement System or CalPERS failed to meet its assumed investment return of 7.5 percent.

If the $302 billion public pension fund consistently misses the 7.5 percent target, state taxpayers could be forced to make up any shortfall in pension funding.

Last fiscal year, CalPERS returned 2.4 percent on its total portfolio, marking a significant decline from previous years when the fund earned double digit returns of more than 10 percent. The result for the year ending June 2016 was the worst since an investment loss of 23.6 percent in 2009.

The yearly rates of return, once audited, help determine contribution levels for state agency employers and for contracting cities, counties and special districts in fiscal year 2016-2017.

Speaking at a CalPERS meeting, Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos said performance for the year was driven primarily by global equity markets, which represent a little over half of the fund’s portfolio. Equities delivered a return of negative 3.4 percent.

“When 52 percent of your portfolio is achieving a negative 3.4 percent return, that certainly sets the main driver for the overall performance of the fund,” said Eliopoulos, who had projected flat returns for the year in June.

Inflation assets returned a negative 3.6 percent return, helping drag down the fund’s overall performance, Eliopoulos said.

Fixed income and real estate investments were bright spots in the portfolio, posting 9.3 percent and 7.1 percent returns respectively.

In response to the drop from previous years, Eliopoulos said CalPERS would reduce risk from its portfolio and have simpler investments that do not require paying fees to money managers.

Fund officials, recognizing that the wave of retiring baby boomers means it will pay out more in benefits than it takes in from contributions and investment income, have projected that the fund could have negative cash flow for at least the next 15 years. (Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Diane Craft and Andrew Hay)

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