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Penn Endowment Gains 1.6% as Europe Crisis Hurts Equities

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Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Investment gains at the University of Pennsylvania, the Ivy League school founded by Benjamin Franklin, tumbled to 1.6 percent in the latest fiscal year from 19 percent the year before because of the European debt crisis.

The value of the university’s endowment stood at $6.8 billion after accounting for gifts and distributions to help cover operating costs at the Philadelphia-based school, Kristin Gilbertson, the university’s chief investment officer, said today in an e-mailed statement.

Endowments and foundations had the worst returns of any class of institutional investor, gaining on average 0.37 percent for the year through June, consulting firm Wilshire Associates said in an Aug. 6 report. The credit crunch in Europe, which hurt the performance of equity markets, caused the poor performance, Gilbertson said.

Penn’s results compare with a 5.5 percent gain, including reinvested interest, by the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Over the past decade, the endowment has had an annual average return of 7 percent, Gilbertson said. Penn had the 11th largest university endowment in North America in fiscal 2011, according to a study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Commonfund Institute.

Ivy League member Princeton University will probably report its endowment earned zero to 5 percent on its investments in the year that ended in June, President Shirley Tilghman said last week. That compares with the New Jersey-based school’s 22 percent gain a year earlier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael McDonald in Boston at mmcdonald10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

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