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    The Week in Public Finance: Good and Bad News for Pensions and for Atlantic City

    A roundup of money (and other) news governments can use.
    BY  MARCH 18, 2016

    Pension Plan Peril

    The stock market has been kind to pension plans in recent years. But that ended last year: Pension plan returns for fiscal 2015, which mostly closed on June 30, were meager. Many were below 5 percent, lower than their target rate of 7 or 8 percent. To make matters worse, that was before the stock market turmoil that began late last summer, which means that when most pensions close out fiscal 2016 at the end of June, their returns will again fall short.

    The two-year hit will effectively wipe out the funding improvements seen in 2013 and 2014, predicts Moody’s Investors Service. In a report released Thursday, the agency analyzed 56 state and local government pension plans with total assets of more than $2 trillion. The report says that under the most optimistic scenario, where investment returns average 5 percent for the year, plans’ overall liabilities will still increase by 10 percent. This is because returns are falling short.

    The most pessimistic scenario? That plans report an investment loss of 10 percent. In those cases, Moody’s says that could bump up liabilities by more than half, forcing governments to have to put in more money over the next few years than was previously forecast. With a number of governments already balking at their pension costs, that’s going to be a problem. A little over half of the plans Moody’s sampled already aren’t receiving their full payments from their contributing governments.

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