OECD countries' pension assets surpass $20 trillion

Aggregate pension fund assets in OECD countries grew by $900 billion to reach a record $20.1 trillion in 2011, but average investment returns were down 1.7%, according to a report published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

New inflows helped push pension fund assets in OECD countries to all-time highs, but poor market conditions and a low interest-rate environment generally hurt performance during the year, according to the report, “Pension Markets in Focus.”

Among nations, pension funds in Denmark performed the best on average, returning 12.1% in 2011. At the other end of the spectrum is Turkey, down 10.8%.

Dutch pension plans were the second-best performers with an average 8.2% return. Others with positive returns include Australian funds, which reported an average 4.1%, and Canadian pension funds, with 1.8%.

U.S. pension funds averaged a -2.7% investment return for 2011, and U.K. funds lost about 2.5% during the same period. Japanese pension funds recorded a -3.6% average performance.

In terms of pension markets, the U.S. remains the largest by assets with $10.8 trillion. However, the U.S. market share has fallen to 53.2% of the total assets in 2011, compared with 67.3% 10 years ago. The U.K. had the second-largest market share in 2011 with $2.1 trillion, or 10.7% of the total. Japan, at No. 3, had a 7.4% market share with $1.5 trillion.