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Pension Musings


Just musing here, and throwing out the following observation to see what the other contributors have to say about it. Since July 1st, the rise in the Nasdaq to today's high (up 8.7% in 6 trading days) and the rise in the other indices as well (SPX up 3.7%) has been remarkable for a number of reasons: the pace of the gains, yes, but also the aggressiveness of the buying illustrated by the large gaps on the open as well as intra-day. It is probable that programs had much to do with that aggressiveness. And perhaps the programs were of the bond-to-stock type. The market action suggests (but does not prove) as much. Add to that observation that the high beta stocks have seriously outperformed their lower beta brethren.

So here's my question: any chance that pension funding by large corporations with underfunded pensions has provided the fuel for this 6 session-wonder? And that, in an attempt to get to their assumed return target (GMs has a 9% return assumption on their pension), they are chasing some beta in the Nazz names. They know the Fed is going to do everything they can to reflate the economy, so why not take a flyer on stocks instead of bonds in the pension? Heck, we know GM just raised $17 billion for the express purpose of funding their pension plan (they need $15B over 5 years to properly fund it). There are plenty of other corporations out there in a similar predicament.

It would be an interesting, of course, if these buyers turned out to represent the last surge in the markets. Interesting, and disastrous for their pensions, if they turn out to be the last buyers. We will only know in hindsight, of course, but the possibility that the latest surge was a function of pension fund buying via programs is intriguing.
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