Assets of major public pension funds fell 8.5% in third quarter

The stock market’s summer slide took a toll on public pension funds, with the assets of the 100 largest ones down 8.5% in the third quarter, according to the Census Bureau.

The quarterly decline was the first since early last year and the steepest since the fourth quarter of 2008, when the asset total plummeted 13.5% at the height of the global financial crisis, the bureau said Wednesday.

The latest drop brought the value of investments and cash held by the biggest pension funds — including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System — to $2.5 trillion at the end of September, down $236.6 billion from the end of June.


Driving the decline was a 14.9% slide in the funds’ corporate stock holdings, which at last count represented 30.4% of the funds’ assets.

The pension fund numbers reflect the performance of financial markets in the third quarter, when stock prices worldwide tumbled from the intensified European debt crisis.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 12% in the three-month period. But stocks have rebounded since the end of September, and pension fund holdings probably have bounced back as well.