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Plans return an average 8.3% in first quarter — 3 reports

Institutional investors gained an average 8.3% in the first quarter, data from Wilshire Associates, Northern Trust and BNY Mellon show.

Plans in the Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service posted median returns of 8.3% and 4.2% for the first quarter and year ended March 31, respectively.

"Nearly all asset classes delivered healthy returns for institutional investors during the first quarter," said Jason Schwarz, president, Wilshire Analytics and Wilshire Funds Management in a news release. "Government bonds were buoyed by expectations of lower interest rates extending for a longer period of time. This was also supportive of riskier assets such as high yield bonds and equities, which rallied substantially higher off low valuations at the end of 2018."

Taft-Hartley DB plans posted the highest median quarterly return in Wilshire's universe at 8.9%; followed by foundations and endowments, 8.8%; public DB plans, 8.4%; corporate defined benefit plans, 7.3%; and Taft-Hartley health and welfare funds, 6.3%.

By asset class, the MSCI World ACWI ex-U.S. equity index posted quarterly and one-year returns of 10.3% and -4.2%, respectively. The Wilshire 5000 Total Market index, meanwhile, returned 14.1% and 8.9%, over those periods, respectively, and the Wilshire Bond index, 4% and 5.2%.

Longer term, for the three, five and 10 years ended March 31, the TUCS universe returned a median annualized 8.1%, 5.9% and 10%, respectively.

Meanwhile, data from the Northern Trust universe show the median plan returned about 7.8% for the quarter and 3.5% for the 12 months ended March 31, resulting in "the ninth-best quarterly median return in the past 20 years," a news release announcing the data said.

"A strong start to 2019 helped institutional plans recover from a rough 2018, when the median plan in the Northern Trust Universe had negative performance after equity markets tumbled in the fourth quarter," said Mark Bovier, regional head of investment risk and analytical services at Northern Trust, in the release. "Looking at longer-term performance, the first quarter of 2019 marks the first 10-year period that will not include the effects of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. For asset owners in the Northern Trust Universe, the median 10-year return improves by 150 basis points, to 10.1% from 8.6% over that period."

The median ERISA plan was up 8.3%, while public funds rose 7.8%, and foundations and endowments gained 7%.

Corporate DB plans returned 4.4%, 8.2% and 6.2% for the one, three and five years ended March 31, respectively. Public DB plans' one-, three- and five-year returns were 3.5%, 8.7% and 6.3%, respectively. Foundations and endowments returned 3.9%, 8.4% and 5.9% for the one, three and five years ended March 31.

Plans in the BNY Mellon U.S. Master Trust Universe returned a median 7.6% and 4.2% in the three and 12 months ended March 31, respectively.

Of the type of plans measured in the universe, corporate defined benefit plans performed the best during the first quarter, returning 8.2%, followed by Taft-Hartley and public DB plans, both at 7.5%; foundations, 7.1%; endowments, 6.9%; health-care plans, 6.7%.

For the three, five and 10 years ended March 31, BNY Mellon's universe reported a median annualized return of 8.3%, 6% and 9.9%, respectively.