Mercer Finds Equity Markets End 2009 Strong

Mercer’s fourth-quarter 2009 Defined Contribution Universe Summary found gains in all equity markets during the period.
A Mercer news release said the S&P 500 Index gained 6% during the quarter, while the Barclays Capital Aggregate Bond Index posted a gain of 0.2%. Money-market instruments had a zero return, as measured by the three-month T-bill rate.

The balanced asset class, using a benchmark of 60% S&P 500/40% Barclays Capital Aggregate Bond Indices, posted a gain of 3.7%. International equity markets, as measured by the MSCI EAFE Index, gained 2.2% during the fourth quarter.

The international equity asset class underperformed U.S. equities for the quarter by 380 basis points. Global equities gained 4.1% for the quarter and outperformed international equities by 190 basis points.

Over a 10-year time frame, the S&P 500 Index lost 1%, while the Russell 2000 Index gained 3.5%. International equity markets gained 1.2% over a 10-year time frame, outperforming their U.S. counterparts. Over a 10-year period, the fixed-income asset class produced a return of 6.3%, significantly above U.S. equity returns (as measured by the S&P 500 Index) over the same time period.

According to the news release, Mercer’s quarterly report analyzes returns of various funds to help institutional investors evaluate their mutual fund managers’ performance against other funds and asset class benchmarks.Mutual Fund Performance

Mercer’s fourth-quarter 2009 Defined Contribution Universe Summary indicated that during the fourth quarter, growth funds outperformed value funds, as the median large cap growth fund posted a gain of 6.9% compared to a gain of 4.6% for the median large cap value fund. The small cap segment of the market trended in the same direction as large cap stocks, as the median small cap growth fund outperformed the median small cap value fund by 40 basis points, the news release said.

The median large-cap fund underperformed the S&P 500 Index by 20 basis points for the fourth quarter. Small-cap funds underperformed their large cap counterparts for the quarter, as the median small-cap fund gained 4.5% for the quarter versus a gain of 5.8% for the median large-cap fund.

Within the international equity asset class, the median manager outperformed the MSCI EAFE Index by 60 basis points during the quarter. The median emerging markets manager gained 8.2% for the quarter and underperformed the MSCI Emerging Markets Free Index by 40 basis points.

The median core fixed-income fund outperformed the Barclays Capital Aggregate Bond Index for the fourth quarter by 90 basis points.

The Defined Contribution Universe Summary can be downloaded at