Denmark’s Unipension produced 2013 investment returns of between 8.3% and 9% for the three professional pension schemes it runs, and said returns were driven in particular by strong equities performance.

The Architects’ Pension Fund returned 8.4%, the Pension Fund for Danish MAs, MSCs and PhDs (MP Pension) produced 8.3% and the Pension Fund for Agricultural Academics and Vets ended the year with a 9% return, Unipension reported in preliminary figures for last year.

The 2013 returns are lower than investment profits the pensions administrator produced the year before, which were between 12.8% and 13.3% for the three pension funds.

Niels Erik Petersen, head of investment at Unipension, said: “The return in 2013 was especially driven by shares, which have performed very well.”

Petersen said Unipension produced one of the very best returns in the pensions industry for its scheme members over the last five years, both compared with traditional with-profits products and unit link pensions that had the same risk profile.

He said the international economy was improving, and companies were tending to recognise that better times were on their way.

“The optimism has rubbed off on the stock market in 2013, and this is why we have seen these price rises,” he said.

However, while progress had been made in the world economy in 2013, there are still big challenges in the US and Western Europe in the form of high unemployment and low investment, Unipension said.

Petersen said one of the most interesting topics in 2014 would be how the rollback of US expansionary fiscal policy will be received in the financial markets.

“The US has pumped an almost unimaginable amount into circulation to stimulate the economy, and when the flow of cash stops as planned in 2014, the markets will have to deal with the new situation,” he said.

On top of this, there are still problems in Southern European economies, which could well flare up again in 2014, he warned.

But overall, he said the world economy was in better shape than a year ago.