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State retirement funds affected by Monday's market downturn.

September 17, 2001
By: Julian Pecquet
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - More than $4 billion of state government's funds for retired state workers got a ride on Monday's stock market roller coaster.

But the director of the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System (MOSERS) expressed confidence about the long-term value of the system's investments.

MOSERS was among 44 state and teacher retirement institutions nationwide that issued a statement Friday in a joint effort to downplay the market's expected downturn when it opened for the first time after last Tuesday's attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

As Wall Street reopened on Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.1% to its lowest level in four years as airline and insurance stock plummeted, while the Nasdaq Composite Index of new technologies dropped 6.8%.

MOSERS covers 75,000 retirees and active members, and has assets of more than $5.5 billion invested in the troubled financial markets, with more than $4 billion in stocks. Executive director Gary Findlay remained optimistic as the stock market closed on Tuesday after having been shut down for four business days last week, for the first time since the Great Depression.

"This is a much smaller dump than what we experienced in 1987," Findlay said.

Findlay described MOSERS as a broad based, heavily diversified fund.

"We are very well diversified, not concentrated in any one sector," said Findlay. "As long term institutional investors we will weather the storm."

Findlay said he could not estimate how much money the retirement system lost from Monday's market loses. Instead, he kept an upbeat approach stating that "Missouri isn't about to go out of business".

The statement issued Friday spoke of the future.

"As institutional investors, we will remain patient long-term providers of capital. We remain confident in the underlying strength of the US economy. We urge all other investors to remain calm when the markets reopen," the statement said.

"This is the first time there's been an opportunity to step in and call for normalcy," said Findlay.