The median institutional fund in the Northern Trust Universe returned 4.5% in the third quarter, driven primarily by the U.S. and international equity markets.
Corporate defined benefit plans were the top performers, returning a median 5% in the quarter ended Sept. 30, according to a news release from Northern Trust.
Public pension funds returned a median 4.7% for the quarter, while foundations and endowments returned a median 4.3%.
Domestic equities portfolios were the primary driver of the strong returns, with a median return of 6.5% in the third quarter. Domestic equity makes up 30% or more of all assets in institutional portfolios, according to the report.
International equities portfolios returned a median 7.2% and fixed income, a median 2.9%.
The median corporate pension fund also led the way for the 12 months ended Sept. 30, with an 18.3% return, while the median public pension fund returned 16.7% and the median foundation/endowment returned 14%. Corporate plans also led the median three-year and five-year returns.
The Northern Trust Universe consists of about 300 large institutional funds with combined assets of about $748 billion.