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Calpers Earned 18% as Stocks Buoy Returns

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension, reported an 18.4 percent gain on investments for the fiscal year ended June 30 as global stock indexes rose to records.

Known as Calpers, the $299.4 billion fund earned 24.8 percent on its publicly traded equity holdings, according to an e-mailed statement released today. It has 54 percent of its money invested in stocks, its largest asset class.

The pension’s funding level, the percentage available to provide retirees with promised benefits, is projected to grow to 76 percent, officials said. The gauge had declined to 69.6 percent through June 2012 after the fund lost more than a third of its value in the recession that ended in June 2009.

Calpers’s private-equity investments gained 20 percent for the nine months through March 31, while the value of its real estate holdings rose 14 percent. Results for both asset classes trail the others by three months.

The fund suffered a record 23.4 percent loss in 2009 and then two years later gained a unprecedented 20.9 percent. It earned 13.2 percent last year. The S&P 500 gained 22 percent in the 12 months that ended June 30 as a five-year bull market has sent stock indexes higher. Across the U.S., state and local pension funds had $1.3 trillion in unfunded liabilities as of the first quarter, according to Federal Reserve data.

After Dear

The results are the first earnings report for the pension since Chief Investment Officer Joe Dear died in February from prostate cancer. Dear, who was 62, was hired in 2009 to steer the fund out of the recession that cost it almost $100 billion.

Dear restructured the pension’s portfolio, shedding speculative real estate investments and focusing on private equity, emerging markets, hedge funds and public-works projects to help meet the fund’s targets.

The fund’s value reached $300 billion for the first time July 3, making it bigger than all but two companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Last May, Calpers passed a pre-recession high of $260.6 billion.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the second-biggest U.S. public pension, with $189 billion, reported July 11 that it earned an estimated 18.6 percent in the fiscal year.

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