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February 4, 2014

City pension fund has good year

NEW CASTLE — A booming stock market resulted in a strong performance for New Castle’s employee pension fund in 2013.

“It was a great year,” Eugene Gabriel of Ameriprise Financial said at Monday’s quarterly meeting of the city’s pension fund board of trustees.

The board is made up of the mayor, the five city council members and three employees representing police, firefighters and non-uniformed personnel.

The pension fund gained $4,876,039, or 19.3 percent, for the year, outperforming the benchmark index by one percentage point.

The total of the pension fund portfolio as of Dec. 31 was $30,019,985 as reported by the two investment managers.

As of the end of the year, Ameriprise’s value was $13,473,218 while Huntington Private Financial Group’s was $16,546,767.

Huntington’s share of the portfolio increased by $2,519,925, or 17.96 percent, while Ameriprise’s portion went up by $2,356,114, or 20.98 percent.

The gain is net of fees paid to the investment managers and distributions to beneficiaries.

The benchmark index increased by 18.27 percent for the year. The index is a composite of Standard and Poors, Morgan Stanley, Barclays and U.S. Treasury bills.

For the fourth quarter of 2013, Ameriprise showed a gain of $833,769, or 6.57 percent. Huntington had a gain of $884,190, or 5.69 percent. The benchmark index went up by 6.05 percent for the quarter.

In reviewing the year, Gabriel said factors that influenced the market were an improvement in the global economy, low inflation helping consumers and improvement in the nation’s employment numbers.

Stocks are still seen as a more favorable asset class for investment currently, he said.

Councilman William Panella asked about Monday’s performance in the stock market, which show the Dow Jones Average fall by more than 300 points.

Gabriel responded, “Economically and fundamentally we’re still in good shape.”

Joseph Sniezek of Huntington said 70 percent of companies that reported their performance met or exceeded expectations for the year. One thing to watch, however, is that companies “have been light on revenues.

“We want to see overall revenues expand,” he said.

The nation’s gross domestic product is expected to continue growing by 2.7 percent this year.

Sniezek also said the equity markets continue to be favored because of disappointing returns in the bond and cash markets.

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)

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