CalPERS survived huge losses in real estate investments to return 11.8% on its overall portfolio in 2009, Brad Pacheco, spokesman for the $204.6 billion retirement system, confirmed in an e-mail.
The returns, however, were not enough to make up for heavy losses in 2008, when a -27.1% return dropped the fund from a peak of $253 billion in 2007 to $183.3 billion as of Dec. 31, 2008. Assets rose to $203.3 billion by Dec. 31, 2009, according to CalPERS.
The system's custom 2009 benchmark for the entire portfolio was 21.2%.
CalPERS' real estate portfolio sustained the biggest losses last year, at -47.5% as of Sept. 30, the most recent numbers available. The system's custom real estate benchmark was -15.4% for the same period.
U.S. stocks returned 27.8% in 2009, just short of the system's custom benchmark of 28.1%.
The system's non-U.S. equity portfolio beat its 43.1% custom benchmark by 0.2 percentage points.
CalPERS' private equity portfolio lost 6% as of Sept. 30, the most recent numbers available. The system's private equity benchmark was 45.2%. Mr. Pacheco wrote in the e-mail that the private equity benchmark is based on the Wilshire 2500 plus 300 basis points.
“The public markets have rallied, which accounts for the large spread between our performance and the benchmark,” Mr. Pacheco wrote. “Our private equity portfolio has also grown from -31% as of March 31, 2009, to -6%, but just not as quickly as the public markets. We can expect that our portfolio will grow in time and it's important to note that our private equity portfolio has outperformed its benchmark over the three, five, and 10 years.”