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CalPERS' assets returned 16.2% in 2013

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(Bloomberg) — The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the biggest U.S. pension, said its assets returned 16.2 percent in 2013, the biggest gain in 11 years, as global stocks and private equity soared.

Related story: CalPERS’ investment beliefs arouse skeptics

Known as CalPERS, the $281 billion fund earned 25.6 percent on its publicly traded equity holdings, Chief Investment Officer Joe Dear said at a meeting of the system’s governing board in Monterey. Private equity, which lags three months, gained 19 percent through the end of September.

“Equity had a powerhouse year,” Dear said.

CalPERS assets passed a pre-recession high of $260.6 billion in May, five years after the global financial crisis wiped out more than a third of the fund’s value. Local governments and state agencies have been forced to help make up the loss and cover benefits promised to employees.

The pension had a 12.5 percent gain on investment for the fiscal year ended June 30. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index of shares rose 29.6 percent in 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

CalPERS needs to earn at least 7.5 percent to match its assumed rate of return. The rate is used to calculate how much money the plan will need to cover promised benefits, and what employers must contribute.

Dear is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and has ceded some duties to Ted Eliopoulos, senior investment officer for real estate.

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