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NY state's pension fund reaches record $160B

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York pension fund for state and local government workers has topped $160 billion after reporting a 10.4 percent return on investment for its last fiscal year, the state comptroller’s office reported Monday.

The Common Retirement Fund’s estimated value was $160.4 billion at the end of March, an all-time high for the fund that pays benefits to more than 413,000 retirees and beneficiaries, said Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, its trustee. It has now restored all $44 billion lost during the recession starting in 2008 and added another $6 billion.

“It remains well-positioned for growth as the financial markets continue to gain strength,” DiNapoli said. The 2014-2015 fiscal year starting next April will be the last with higher employer contributions required reflecting the recession losses, he said.

The fund had 36 percent of assets in domestic stocks, returning 14.5 percent for the year, and nearly 14 percent in international equities, returning 9.5 percent, according to the comptroller’s office.

Its fixed-income investments, 28 percent of the portfolio, returned 4.9 percent. Real estate, accounting for 7 percent of the investments, returned 11 percent.

Private equity, composing almost 9 percent of the portfolio, returned almost 12 percent.

The remainder included global equities, returning 13.9 percent, and alternative investments.

The fund includes almost 650,000 employees with 82 percent currently working.

The average employer contribution rate rose this year to now almost 21 percent of salary for most public workers and nearly 29 percent for police and firefighters.

In September 2010, the fund lowered its assumed investment rate of return from 8 percent to 7.5 percent and announced increased contribution rates starting in 2012. The average rates had been about 12 percent for most workers and 18 percent for police and firefighters.

In February, an outside review of New York’s fund showed that it fixed the ethical problems that led to a “pay-for-play” scandal under former Comptroller Alan Hevesi. The three-year review by Funston Advisory Services said the fund’s 2009 decision to ban paid placement agents, which are used by other pension funds, did not appear to have kept it from accessing qualified outside investment managers.

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