PORTUGAL- New figures published by the consultant Watson Wyatt show Portugal’s pension funds have registered a weak start to the year after making up some of the ground on last year’s poor returns.

Returns from the country’s segregated funds, which represent 96% of total pension assets, dropped from 3.9% in the final quarter of last year to 0.3% in the first quarter of this year.

The top performing fund returned 1.8%, well below the corresponding figure of 6.1% for the final quarter of 2001 while the worst performer lost 0.9%, down from a corresponding figure of –0.3% for last year’s final quarter.

Domestic equities have taken a particular battering in the last twelve months dropping 13.1%.

The study covers a total of 172 Portuguese funds including segregated, pooled and third party personal savings plans, covering approximately 94% of the country’s pensions assets.

The report says the first quarter of the year witnessed a series of events- optimistic figures from the US combined with the Enron debacle and the Argentinean crisis- that produced diverse returns.

Over the first three months of the year, Portugal’s PSI-30 lost 1.4% while Eurozone equity markets as a whole gained 1.5%. An appreciating dollar and gains in Asian markets pushed international equities 2.6% higher.