Census Bureau says top 100 public plans earn $108 billion on investments

(updated with correction)

Assets of the 100 largest public employee retirement systems in the third quarter were the highest since the second quarter of 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Assets of $2.786 trillion were 2.6% higher than the $2.715 trillion in the previous quarter and 10% higher than the $2.532 trillion in the same quarter in 2011.

The 100 plans earned $107.97 billion in the third quarter of 2012.

Corporate stocks, which account for 34.1% of assets, increased 0.6% to $949.2 billion in the quarter, while corporate bonds, at 12.6% of assets, decreased 1.9% to $351.3 billion.

International securities, which make up 19.4% of assets, increased 6.6% from the previous quarter and 20.6% year-to-year, to $540.9 billion. Federal government securities, with 8.8% of assets, decreased 1.7% from the previous quarter but increased 38.3% from the same date in 2011 to reach $245.7 billion.

The 100 largest public plans represent 89.4% of total public plan assets.

Erika Becker-Medina, chief of the bureau’s employment and benefits statistics branch, cautioned against comparing some asset-class results for quarters prior to 2012 because the census bureau changed some classifications this year. Federally sponsored agency securities were moved from the “corporate bond” category into “federal government securities,” and private equity, venture capital, and leveraged buyouts went from “other securities” to the “corporate stocks” category.

Other asset classes in the survey are mortgages, state/local government securities, cash and other holdings.

Government contributions to the plans in the survey decreased 14.97% from the previous quarter but increased 5.4% year-over-year, reaching $19 billion. Employee contributions decreased 22.4% in the quarter but were up 10.4% from the previous year.