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US state pension funding rises to 75%

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(Bloomberg) — U.S. state pensions, driven by a booming stock market, continued to recover last year as the value of their assets rose to 75 percent of liabilities, up 3 percentage points from 2012, according to Wilshire Consulting.

The funding level was the highest since 2008, when it reached 81 percent, according to data on 134 state retirement systems compiled by Santa Monica, Calif.-based Wilshire. The 10-year peak was 95 percent in 2007, while the low was 64 percent in 2009.

“Global stock markets rallied strongly over the 12 months ended June 30, 2013,” Russ Walker, a co-author of the report and vice president of Wilshire Associates, the parent of the consulting unit, said yesterday in a statement. That offset “weaker performance by global fixed income” and allowed pension assets to catch up to liabilities.

The value of assets relative to liabilities is a measure of how much the plans have in reserve to pay future benefits. Pension funds collect money and invest it to pay workers after they retire.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of U.S. stocks rose 30 percent in 2013, ending the year at an all-time high for the first time since 1999.

Wilshire said pension assets grew by 8 percent to $2.12 trillion in 2013, according to data from the most recent disclosure filings by pension plans.


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