IRELAND - The average Irish managed pension fund fell 2.6% in July, bringing the average annual return down to -21.4%, Hewitt Associates has revealed.

Latest figures from the monthly Hewitt Managed Fund Index showed the average manager and the Index both returned -2.6% in July, although it pointed out over the first seven months of 2008 the difference between the best performing and worst performing managers was 5.4%.

Canada Life/Setanta achieved the best returns, albeit negative, of -1.1% in July, closely followed by Eagle Star with -1.7%, while BIAM and New Ireland both returned -1.8% over the month and Friends First Consensus achieved -2.2%.

In comparison, Mercer was the worst performer of the 25 funds in the Hewitt Index, with a return of -3.4%, although Hibernian achieved -3.3%, and KBCAM and ILIM both returned -3.2%.

Figures showed in the first seven months of 2008 the average managed fund has generated a negative return on investments of -17.25, compared to the Index return of -17%, with Canada Life/Setanta again achieving the best (negative) return of -14.2%, while also taking the top spot for the 12 months to the end of July 2008, with a return of  -16.9% against the average return of -21.4%.

Evelyn Ryder, director of investment consulting at Hewitt, confirmed July had been "another disappointing" month for Irish managed funds, as the fall of 17.2% in the first seven months of 2008 had dragged the 12-month return "down below 20%".

She added: "Irish fund managers holding over 10% of their portfolios would not have helped, with the Irish market down 16% over the month of July."

Meanwhile, figures from Rubicon Investment Consulting confirmed group pension managed funds fell by around 2.5% in July following concerns over "the ongoing financial crisis, rising inflation and slowing economic growth".

Rubicon revealed the average managed funds have shown a "very disappointing return" of -0.3% a year over the past three years, although it claimed the five-year returns to July 2008 are "somewhat better" with an average of 5.4%.

However, it added "as a result of two severe equity bear markets over the past 10 years" the returns over this period for Irish managed funds were a "disappointing 2.6%" on average, compared with an Irish inflation rate of 3.8% per year.

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