The median return in the State Street Universe rose 3.1% in the fourth quarter and 19.4% in 2009, confirmed State Street spokeswoman Alicia Curran Sweeney.
The year-over-year increase follows a 24% loss in 2008.
The universe, made up of a diverse range of North American-based funds under custody by State Street and the Independent Consultants Cooperative, includes corporate and public defined benefit pension plans, endowments and foundations, Taft-Hartley defined benefit plans and master trust funds.
Endowments and foundations had the best performance in 2009, returning 21.3%. Taft Hartley funds had the lowest returns, 18.4%, though public funds, with a median return of 18.5%, were not far behind. Corporate pension plans returned a median 21% for the year.
Also, the report found that master trusts with less that $1 billion in assets outperformed those with more than $1 billion in 2009, returning 19.8% versus 17.6%.
Paula Gehr, vice president of State Street Investment Analytics, said the smaller funds are likely invested in more traditional investments than larger funds.
“(The smaller funds) are less in real estate and private equity and so on, so they probably have a little less exposure than (larger funds),” she said.
Median returns for various asset classes varied greatly in 2009, with emerging markets funds having the highest returns at 77% and real estate funds the lowest at -28.8%. Developed markets had the second highest returns for the 12 months ended Dec. 31 at 33.4%, followed by global equity, 32.5%; U.S. equity, 30.1%; global fixed income, 17.8%; U.S. fixed income, 11.8%; private equity, -5.7%; and venture capital, -8.1%.
“The returns evidenced by the State Street Universe mirror and reinforce the perception of a general market improvement,” William Pryor, senior vice president and head of State Street Investment Analytics, said in a news release. “Whether that improvement will carry on or not into 2010 no one can predict; however, we are entering the year with positive momentum which is a distinguished difference from the market tone at the end of 2008.”