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U.S. city and county pension funding up nearly 6 percent in 2013: report

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[September 15, 2014]  (Reuters) - Funding levels for city and county pension plans rose almost 6 percent in 2013 from the previous year, according to a report released by Wilshire Consulting on Monday.

In the study provided to Reuters, Wilshire estimated 109 state retirement systems had enough assets to cover 73 percent of their obligations in the year ended June 30, 2013, up 5.7 percent from 69 percent in 2012. Still, 90 percent of those plans were considered under funded.

Russ Walker, vice president at Wilshire Associates and an author of the report, attributed the rise to the strong rally of global stock markets over the 12 months, offsetting "weaker performance by global fixed income and allowing pension asset growth to outdistance the growth in pension liabilities over fiscal 2013."

For years, many states short-changed their public pensions, putting in far less than recommended by actuaries. The 2007-2009 recession further cut revenues, while plans' investments, which provide two-thirds of revenues, went into a downward spiral.

From California to New York, battles have erupted over whether states have enough money to pay promised benefits, especially now that the first wave of the baby boom population is retiring.

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Pension assets totaled $428.9 billion, while liabilities were $589.7 billion, reported Wilshire, a Santa Monica, California-based independent investment consulting firm. Of the retirement systems studied by Wilshire, 34 had equity allocations that equal or exceed 70 percent, while 14 systems were below 50 percent.

(Reporting by Robin Respaut; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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