CalPERS Loses 35 Percent of its Portfolio Value, Plans to ‘Be Patient’

Bad news keeps coming almost as sure as Bill Murray was going to relive Feb. 2 in the movie Groundhog Day. Today, the nation’s largest public pension fund, California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) said the market value of the fund’s real estate is $6.1 billion as of June, down 35 percent from its original cost of $9.3 billion, according to CalPERS. Fund administrators restructured certain outstanding debt arrangements, and reduced leverage where appropriate while planning to keep the majority of its assets and “be patient.” However, that is not a philosophy that too many others are sharing right now. Wall Street opened lower and kept falling as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq sank 5.2 percent, Investor’s Business Daily reported. The Dow fell 4.7 percent. Financial stocks were hard-hit by the Treasury’s about-face on distressed mortgage securities. Bank of America, which is buying Merrill Lynch, dived 9 percent to a 12-year low. Morgan Stanley fell 15 percent and Goldman Sachs 11 percent, according to Investor’s Business Daily. Later today, the Labor Department will release its latest figures fr weekly applications for unemployment benefits, the Commerce Department will report on the trade gap for September and the government will report on the budget deficit for October, according to the Associated Press. Those figures could play yet another role in how stocks will fare today. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Wednesday scrapped his original plan to buy toxic mortgage assets and outlined new ideas for using the government’s $700-billion rescue fund to boost lending to consumers and business. In addition to injecting capital into the banking sector, Paulson said the now-misnamed Troubled Asset Relief Program may provide capital to other financial firms and the dormant asset-backed securitization market, according to Investor’s Business Daily. Further, the report stated that Paulson said policymakers are also focused on foreclosure relief, but hinted he’d prefer not to use TARP funds for an FDIC-proposed $50-billion homeowner bailout. While automaker aid “that leads to viability” is warranted, Paulson said TARP funds should be used to stabilize the financial sector. Electronics retailers continue to struggle as Business Week reported that Best Buy warned investors Wednesday that earnings are falling. Same-store sales fell 7.6 percent in October and company expects same-store sales in the next four months could fall as little as 5 percent or plunge as much as 15 percent from the year before. Best Buy shares fell 8 percent on Nov. 12 to close at 21.97. Its stock is down 58 percent this year, Business Week reported.