TORONTO -- Canada Pension Plan Investment Board achieved an 11.6 per cent rate of return in fiscal 2018, keeping it on track to provide long-term financial support for the country's largest retirement fund, according to figures released Thursday.
The CPP Fund increased its assets by $39.4 billion over the financial year ended March 31, slightly more than the $37.8 billion increase in fiscal 2017 and much better than the $14.3 billion increase in 2016.
At the end of March, the CPP Fund had net assets of $356.1 billion, up from $316.7 billion at the end of fiscal 2017 and $278.9 billion at the end of fiscal 2016, which included nine months in calendar 2015.
Investment gains have offset shrinking employer and employee contributions, which fell to $2.7 billion in fiscal 2018 from $4.3 billion in fiscal 2017 and $5.2 billion in fiscal 2016.
Canada's chief actuary estimates the CPP Fund can meet its obligations with an average return of 3.9 per cent over 75 years.
The investment portfolio's 10-year real rate of return, which is comparable to the chief actuary's benchmark estimate, was 6.2 per cent in fiscal 2018 while the five-year rate of return was 10.4 per cent.
While CPPIB chief executive officer Mark Machin declined to predict Thursday how investment returns will turn out this year, he said the portfolio actually anticipates that there will be losing years from time to time.
"Hopefully, it doesn't happen this coming year but statistically that's going to happen at least one year in 10."
Right now "the world still is in synchronized growth in most markets, so that continues to be supportive," Machin said.
Economic growth hasn't been hurt by the Federal Reserve's tightening of the U.S. money supply through higher interest rates and other measures, which were offset by a major drop in U.S. government tax rates.
"The fiscal stimulus in the U.S. -- while it's a one-off -- will have a benefit this year and next. So it's gone from hyperstimulative conditions to just stimulative conditions in the U.S.," Machin said in an interview.
Nevertheless, Machin acknowledged that higher interest rates may be negative for some of CPPIB's asset classes.
"For example, real estate and infrastructure types of investments can be quite sensitive to rises in interest rates. As well, bonds can be sensitive to a rise in interest rates," Machin said.
He said CPPIB's best protection against changing market conditions is its broad diversification among a wide rate of asset classes and geographic markets.