BELGIUM - Belgian pension funds in 2003 saw a positive return for the first time this century thanks to powerful equity performance, according to a study by Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
Pension funds returned an average of 9.6% last year, said report author Willy Santermans, a senior actuary with Mercer.
The positive result was due to the very good equity returns over 2003, he said. About half of pension fund assets are invested in equities, and that's the main reason. Equities gave a median return in our survey of 14.8%, and close 50% was invested in that asset class.
Overall, Belgian pensions increased their weighting in equities to 51.2%, a 3.1% increase over the duration of 2003. Almost half of all equity allocations were given to Belgian and other Eurozone markets, while emerging markets were allocated 26.1%, the report noted.
Looking to the first quarter of 2004, pension funds could continue their performance with a return of 3-5%, Santermans estimated. First quarter reports are just being issued in Belgium, so hard figures have not yet been calculated, he said.
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