Top 100 pension holdings hit highest level since 2007

Total holdings and investments of major public pension systems reached their highest level since their peak in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions for the fourth quarter of 2012.

For the 100 largest public-employee retirement systems in the country, cash and security holdings totaled $2.8 trillion in the fourth quarter, compared to $2.9 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2007. Cash and security holdings had a quarter-to-quarter increase of 1.7 percent from $2.789 trillion last quarter and a year-to-year increase of 8.6 percent from $2.6 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Earnings on investments totaled $67.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Corporate stocks quarter-to-quarter decreased 1 percent from $949.2 billion to $939.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012. Corporate stocks year-to-year were up 14.2 percent from $822.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011. Corporate stocks comprised about 33.1 percent of the total cash and security holdings of the top 100 public pension systems for the current quarter.

Corporate bonds, which make up about 12.3 percent of the total cash and security holdings of the public pension systems, decreased 0.2 percent quarter to quarter from $349.8 billion to $349.2 billion. Year over year, corporate bonds decreased 12.6 percent from $399.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

International securities, which make up 20.2 percent of the cash and security holdings of major public pension systems, totaled $574.1 billion, reaching the highest level since this survey began collecting data in the third quarter of 2000. International securities increased 6.1 percent from the third quarter and 21.4 percent from $472.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Federal government securities, which make up 8.9 percent of the total cash and security holdings of major public pension systems, increased 2.2 percent from $246.1 billion in the third quarter to $251.5 billion in the fourth quarter. Year over year, these securities increased 40.7 percent from $178.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Government contributions to these pensions rose 22.7 percent from $19.1 billion in the third quarter to $23.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012. They increased 9 percent from the end of 2011.

Employee contributions increased 28.7 percent from the third quarter to $10.3 billion and increased 11.9 percent from $9.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

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