Pension benefits paid to retirees rose to $7.5 billion in the third quarter of 2006, according to Statistics Canada.

Payments have been rising steadily over the past few years as more people have begun retiring.

Year-to-date payments are up 6% when compared over the same period in 2005 and 7.5% over 2004.

The market value of assets for trusteed pension plans was $854.9 billion, an increase of 4.4% from the second quarter.

More than 40% of assets were held in stocks and equity funds in the third quarter. Bonds and bond funds accounted for 33%, real estate 6%, short-term investments 4%, mortgages 1%, and other assets 16%.

Pension fund assets in foreign holdings have increased 5% in the last two years. Investments in foreign holdings, particularly stocks, now account for 29% of pension funds assets, while the proportion of domestic holdings has declined to 71% since the first half of 2005.

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