Superannuation funds on track for stellar returns

Australian superannuation funds are on track to record their best performance since the financial crisis, hitting a median growth of about 13 per cent for the financial year to date.

Australian superannuation funds are on track to record their best performance since the financial crisis, hitting a median growth of about 13 per cent for the financial year to date.

The median growth fund rose 2 per cent in February, the ninth consecutive month of growth for super funds, industry analysts SuperRatings and Chant West said.

"Four years on from the lowest point of the GFC, it is great to see super funds have rebounded so strongly," SuperRatings founder Jeff Bresnahan said. "Investors shouldn't expect a return to those bull market days of 2004 to 2007, but the 2012-13 financial year remains on track to provide double-digit returns."

SuperRatings reported that the median growth fund had risen 12.3 per cent over the past eight months. Chant West reported a 13.2 per cent rise for the period.

Super funds have rebounded by 44.2 per cent since the financial crisis lows of February 2009, and are 8.1 per cent higher than their pre-crisis levels, SuperRatings said.

The February reports came as Bureau of Statistics data showed that super fund assets rose by $50.7 billion to $1.46 trillion in the December quarter.

Chant West said Australian shares were the best performers in February, rising by 5.3 per cent and reflecting the sharemarket's bull run. International shares rose 1.3 per cent in hedge terms and 19 per cent in unhedged terms.

Australian real estate investment trusts were up 3.5 per cent, while international REITs edged higher by 1.9 per cent.

"The strong sharemarket gains in February were largely on the back of improved sentiment, with investors seemingly prepared to look beyond the current patchy growth to a more prosperous future," Chant West director Warren Chant said.

At the same time, a survey of chief investment officers by the Financial Services Council published on Wednesday found they were positive about equities, with 91 per cent of respondents expecting Australian and international equities to perform "well" or "very well".

Sharemarket growth has also resulted in households increasing their voluntary superannuation contributions during the December quarter, the analysis showed.

The analysts warned that economic headwinds - such as the Italian elections and Cyprus' bailout crisis - could push this month's returns back into the red, with SuperRatings estimating a current 0.3 per cent drop for the month.

"While the sharemarket rally isn't supported by company earnings growth, the increase in money flowing into shares from cash and bonds may provide some support for prices. However, the rally won't be sustainable if we don't see real economic progress at some point," Mr Chant said.

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