The last four quarters amount to the worst rolling 12-month performances from superannuation funds since the inception of compulsory super, according to research from SuperRatings.

The SuperRatings median balanced fund returned -3.42 per cent in the September quarter, taking the 12-month median score to -11.59 per cent – the lowest since 1992.

However the long-term returns of many balanced options considerably outperformed inflation. The respective annual 7.18 per cent and 7.14 per cent returns of the median balanced options over seven and 10-year periods aligned closely with the long-term goal of achieving inflation plus 3.5 per cent each year, SuperRatings found.

But even these targets will be pressured in the months ahead. Only two funds achieved double-digit returns in the five years to September 30 2008: MTAA Super Balanced with 12.3 per cent, and BUSS(Q) with 10.5 per cent.

“Come October 31 2008, it is doubtful any balanced investment option will be able to lay claim to this for quite some time,” the SuperRatings commentary read.

Exposures to the domestic and international sharemarkets have severely diminished the returns of balanced options. Some funds with larger allocations to illiquid investments, such as MTAA Super and Vision Super, have been more resilient to the downturn.

Significant investments in private equity and infrastructure were regarded major contributors to the performance of the Vision Super growth and conservative balanced options, which posted -3.34 and -3.00 per cent respectively for the quarter ending September 30, Tony Tuohey, trustee director of Vision Super, said.

“We’re cognisant of current market conditions and are confident that our strategies are in order,” Tuohey said.

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