(Bloomberg) — The chief investment officer of the biggest U.S. pension fund is most worried about low interest rates as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System struggles to earn enough money to pay beneficiaries.
“It provides the greatest stress on our portfolio as a whole as we try to achieve a 7.5 percent rate of return,” Ted Eliopoulos said in an interview Tuesday at the fund’s governing board meeting in Walnut Creek, California.
The $300 billion fund said Monday that it earned 2.4 percent in the last fiscal year, below its 7.5 percent target rate. When it falls short, it must turn to taxpayers to make up the difference. Stock and bond market volatility caused by uncertainty over when the Federal Reserve will increase rates depressed returns.
Near-zero interest rates for more than five years have led investors into riskier assets as they search for returns, the demand pushing prices higher and narrowing the compensation they get for that added risk.
Investors from BlackRock Inc.’s Laurence D. Fink and Janus Capital Group Inc.’s Bill Gross have highlighted the rate environment’s effects on pension funds and insurance companies, which rely on returns from their investments to help pay claims.