Wyoming's investment portfolio recoups losses

AP News
Posted: Dec 31, 2009 9:29 AM

Wyoming recouped more than $1 billion in the value of its investment portfolio in 2009. The state now has recovered fully from the paper losses it suffered in the recent economic downturn.

The Wyoming State Treasurer's Office posted figures this week showing the market value of the state's portfolio is now $11.5 billion. That's about $150 million more than the original cost of the investments.

Early this year, the market value of the state's portfolio had fallen more than $1.3 billion below the original investment cost.

"It looks a lot better than we did last year," Wyoming Treasurer Joe Meyer said Wednesday.

"It's very rewarding that we're back to even so at this stage the cost and the market value are coinciding," Meyer said. "That's very helpful. The income side of the equation looks really good."

Michael Walden-Newman, Wyoming's chief investment officer, said he credits the state's recovery to sticking to its investment plan rather than panicking early this year and selling out when the markets were low.

"For me, it reinforces the importance of having a well thought-out asset allocation plan in place," Walden-Newman said. He said the recent economic downturn has been the roughest financial period since the Great Depression.

Wyoming takes a conservative approach to investments and had less exposure to the stock market than many other large, institutional investors, Walden-Newman said. He said the state reevaluated its approach during the worst period early this year but decided to stick with its fundamental approach.

"We stuck to it, and we're going to stick to it," Walden-Newman said. "Versus those who in fact did panic, got out of the market, deviated from their plans and locked in their losses."

Thom Williams, executive director of the Wyoming Retirement System, said Wednesday that the value of the system's portfolio has climbed back up 23.8 percent in 2009. He said its market value through Tuesday was nearly $5.7 billion.

The state retirement system saw the value of its portfolio plummet from $6.3 billion at the start of 2008 to $4.6 billion last January before it started its recovery.

Williams said Wednesday he doesn't anticipate the system will get such double-digit returns in the future.

"I'm just elated personally with the performance of the system over the past year," Williams said. "And I think we are cautiously optimistic that we will continue to see positive returns in the years ahead."