Penn Endowment Rises 19% on Stocks, Natural Resources

The University of Pennsylvania, the Ivy League school founded by Benjamin Franklin, said its endowment gained 19 percent in the year ended June 30, helped by rising stock markets.

Equities were the “most significant contributor” to the $6.58 billion fund, followed by natural resources, private equity, hedge funds and high-yield bonds, Kristin Gilbertson, the Philadelphia school’s chief investment officer, wrote in an e-mail today.

Endowments and foundations gained an average of 20 percent in the year ended June 30, their best performance in 14 years, according to consultant Wilshire Associates Inc. That lags behind the 31 percent rise, including dividends, of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

The endowment, most of which is invested in the associated investments fund, increased across all asset classes over the past year, according to Gilbertson.

The endowment rose an average of 4 percent annually for the three years ending June 30, where all categories gained except for real estate. Investment performance contributed more than $1 billion to the endowment, before $252 million in spending and new gifts of $175 million, Gilbertson said.

Penn’s investments dropped 16 percent in the year ended June 2009, when endowments had record losses, less than the 27 percent and 25 percent declines of Harvard and Yale, the two richest universities. Penn held less in private equity and real estate and more in stocks, “substantial” cash, short-term U.S. treasuries and a “defensive” mix of hedge funds, according to a 2010 memo from Howard Marks, chairman of Oaktree Capital Management LP and the former chairman of Penn’s investment committee.

The endowment gained 13 percent in the year ended June 30 2010, helped by investments in credit and public equities, Gilbertson said a year ago. Penn is one of the eight private schools in the northeastern U.S. that make up the Ivy League.

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