IRELAND - The performance of Irish managed pension funds improved for the seventh month in a row as they returned an average 2.6% in September, according to figures from Rubicon Investment Consulting.

Of the 10 group managed funds covered by the monthly survey Irish Life Investment managers produced the best performance with a return of 3.1%, closely followed by Eagle Star/Zurich Life, which returned 2.8%.

And despite Friends First/F&C reporting the lowest return of 2.1%, Rubicon claimed the three months between June and September "was the best quarter for Irish pension funds since the fourth quarter of 1999".

The figures showed the average return in the third quarter of 2009 was 11.8% for the 10 funds, with Irish Life again posting the best figure of 14.7%. And for the nine months of 2009 the return remains positive at an average of 17.9%, with Merrion Investment managers claiming the top spot with a return of 26.1%, and AIB Investment Managers finishing in last place with a return of 11.6%.

However, Rubicon noted that despite the positive performance by managed funds in the last seven months of 2009 - they have gained an average of 27.5% - over the last 12 months the average return remains -1.1%, with half of the funds reporting positive returns and the others posting negative figures, in particular AIB with a return of -7.7% over the year.

Meanwhile, the results of Hewitt's monthly managed fund index of 23 funds reported the same average return of 2.6% in September, and 11.6% over the quarter, but it was Acorn Life who posted the best monthly performance of 3.8% in this poll, and Irish Life reported the highest return over the quarter.

Hewitt's figures revealed Davy/formerly Aberdeen was the worst performer over the month, quarter and year-to-date with returns of 1.7%, 8% and 4.6% respectively.

That said, the Index showed despite the negative return of 0.7% for the 12 months to September 2009, this still compares favourably with the -26.2% reported for the year to September 2008.

Brian Delaney, investment consultant at Hewitt Associates, said: "Equity markets have consolidated significantly since the lows of 2008 and 2009, however it remains uncertain if we have reached the top of the rally and whether there will be any further increases in equity markets."

And he added: "Investors will now require firm evidence of improving economic fundamentals in order to support the recent rally and sustain any advance from here."

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