California's massive public employee pension system gained more than 13% in investment returns last year, most of it from stocks and real estate, the agency said.
It was the best year for the California Public Employees' Retirement System since 2006, when the fund gained 15.7%. CalPERS investments were up 1.1% in 2011 as it struggled to regain its footing after the Great Recession.
With more than $250 billion in assets, CalPERS is the largest public employee pension fund in the U.S. The agency administers retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million current and retired state, school and local government employees and their families.
Though it released returns for the calendar year, CalPERS reports on a fiscal year ending June 30. And its returns in the first six months of its current fiscal year were 7.1%, slightly below the 7.5% it had assumed it would gain for the full fiscal year.
"We're definitely pleased," said Joe DeAnda, a CalPERS spokesman. "Our hopes are that the performance will continue along these lines."
Investment returns are significant because they help dictate the amount of money that government agencies have to contribute to provide retirement benefits for employees. The importance of the fund's investments was magnified in 2008, when it lost 28% amid the global economic crisis and recession.
Rob Feckner, president of the CalPERS board, said he remains optimistic about the fund's future.
"As we emerge from this recession, I am positive we will continue on the path of improved transparency, accountability and ethics," he said.