Canadian corporate and public pension plans in the RBC Investor & Treasury Services universe saw a median gross return of 0.6% in the three months ended Sept. 30.
A news release Friday said the nearly-flat median return was because of a negative market environment in September that counteracted the positive returns in July and August.
Canadian equities returned a median gross 1.5%, while the S&P/TSX Composite index returned 0.2% for the quarter.
Positive sectors in the index were consumer staples, energy and industrials, while the news release cited materials — because of poor performance by gold stocks — and consumer discretionary stocks as laggards during the third quarter.
"Market volatility returned in September on account of global concerns over the impact of labor shortages, strained supply chains and rising consumer prices, all due to the COVID-19 delta variant," said Niki Zaphiratos, managing director and head, asset owners, client coverage, Canada, for RBC Investor & Treasury Services, in the news release.
"Investors are watchful in anticipation of a debt limit showdown in December and the ongoing struggles to reach an infrastructure deal and funding agreement in the U.S.," Ms. Zaphiratos added. "Central banks are already moving away from some of the ultra-loose monetary policies as inflation pressures persist.
"In response, plan managers have been increasingly investing in a greater variety of asset classes such as private equity, real estate and infrastructure that can hedge against inflation."
Canadian pension plans' foreign equities returned a median 1.4% for the three months ended Sept. 30, while fixed income returned a median -0.8%, according to the news release.
The universe had gained a median gross return of 4.4% in the second quarter and had a median return of 3% in the third quarter of 2020.