Assets of the 200 largest retirement plans in the United States climbed 11%, rising for the second year in a row, according to Pensions & Investments' annual survey.
Boosted by an improving stock market and increased employer contributions, assets of the top 200 pension funds jumped to $4.05 trillion in the year ended Sept. 30, up from $3.65 trillion. The top 200 had a 15.2% leap in assets for the year ended Sept. 30, 2003.
Assets of the largest 1,000 plans rose 10.6% to $5.35 trillion, after gaining nearly 12% a year earlier.
On a market-adjusted basis, assets of both the top 200 and 1,000 funds declined just less than 1%.
Equity exposure helped drive growth overall, said Christopher Levell, a principal at Mercer Investment Consulting, Chicago. "It was a good year for most asset classes," he said.
For the 12 months ended Sept. 30, the broad-based Standard & Poor's 500 stock index posted a 13.9% gain and the Dow Jones industrial average rose 8.7%. The Russell 3000 index, which represents approximately 98% of the U.S. equity market, jumped 14.3%.
Worldwide, stocks also rose sharply during the 12 months, with the Morgan Stanley Capital International Europe Australasia Far East index gaining 22.5%, and the MSCI World index up 15.2%.
(Major indexes used for market adjustments and their returns for the 12 months ended Sept. 30 were: Russell 3000, 14.26%; Citigroup Broad Investment Grade index, 3.8%; MSCI EAFE, 22.5%; Citigroup World Government Bond non-U.S., 8.9%; 90-day Treasury bills, 1.1%; and the NCREIF Property Index, 11.6%).