"Thank you ZIRP, may we have another." This is what the 1.6 million workers who have invested their retirement money with America's largest pension fund, California's CALPERS, may want to ask Chairman Ben following the firm's just announced results for Fiscal 2012 (ended June 30). The end result: +1% nominal return, which means a negative real return. And this is even including the now traditional end of June ramp which this year came courtesy of the now largely irrelevant European summit, which nonetheless ramped stocks and likely meant the difference for Calpers between positive and negative on the year! Sadly just one "another" year would not be enough, but a whopping 7 more would be needed, because as is well known, for all actuarial purposes Calpers, as well as the bulk of US pension funds, use a 7.5% discount rate. In other words, Calpers missed the minimum return it needs to not require overfunding by, oh... 87%. Here is Calper's Mea Culpa: "CalPERS 1 percent return is below the fund’s discount rate of 7.5 percent, a long-term hurdle lowered recently in response to a steady decline in inflation and as part of CalPERS routine evaluation of economic assumptions." At this rate, courtesy of ZIRP and the destruction of equities as an asset class, until the 2s30s is flat, and we have terminal wheelbarrow lift off, Calpers will no choice but to keep revising lower and lower until its discount rate is negative in line with the imminent advent of NIRP. Good luck with those actuarial tables with a negative discount rate.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) today reported a 1 percent return on investments for the 12 months that ended June 30, 2012, falling short of its benchmark that returned 1.7 percent. CalPERS assets at the end of the fiscal year stood at more than $233 billion.
The small gain – despite continued volatility in world markets and economies – was helped by improved performance of CalPERS real estate investments. Investments in income-generating properties like office, industrial and retail assets returned approximately 15.9 percent, outperforming the pension fund’s real estate benchmark by more than 3 percent.
CalPERS performance was negatively impacted by significant allocations to U.S. and international public equities.
"The last twelve months were a challenging period for all investors as the ongoing European debt crisis and slowing global economic growth increased market volatility and reduced equity returns,” said Joe Dear, CalPERS Chief Investment Officer. “It’s a clear reminder that we must remain focused on performance, risk and internal controls in today’s financial environment.”
CalPERS 1 percent return is below the fund’s discount rate of 7.5 percent, a long-term hurdle lowered recently in response to a steady decline in inflation and as part of CalPERS routine evaluation of economic assumptions. CalPERS 20-year investment return is 7.7 percent.
“It’s important to remember that CalPERS is a long-term investor and one year of performance should not be interpreted as a signal about our ability to achieve our investment goals over the long-term,” said Henry Jones, Chair of CalPERS Investment Committee.
And here is why equities are pretty much finished as an asset class for pension funds:
Today’s announcement includes asset class performance gains as follows:
Finally, here is where Calpers affiliates will not be happy:
Employer contribution rates that use CalPERS 2011-12 fiscal year investment performance will be calculated based on audited figures and will be reflected in contribution levels for the State of California in FY 2013-14 and for contracting cities, counties and special districts in FY 2014-15.
Advance warning: contribution rates are going up, up, up.