Funds in Hong Kong's compulsory pension scheme barely kept above water last month, with an average return on the month of 0.25 per cent.
By contrast, the Hang Seng Index gained 2.6 per cent, meaning investors could have done better if they had invested directly in the stock market.
But Kenny Tang Sing-hing, the general manager of AMTD Financial Planning, said it would not be scientific to compare the Mandatory Provident Fund's average return with that of the stock index.
'The MPF not only includes some equity [funds], it also has bonds and fixed assets,' Tang said.
The MPF's bond funds showed a monthly gain of 0.69 per cent, compared with 0.27 per cent for equity funds, according to data provider Lipper.
Equity funds are the second-most popular MPF sector and constitute 34 per cent of all fund assets.
Mixed-asset funds, the most popular choice, accounting for 42 per cent of all MPF assets, gained 0.15 per cent. The funds invest in stocks and bonds.
Over the three months to April, equity funds rose 3.32 per cent, compared with 0.32 per cent for bond funds. Among the 433 investment funds under the MPF, the average return for the period was 2.33 per cent.
The scheme recovered last year's losses in the first two months of this year, boosted by a stock market rally in the beginning of the year.
The average return was 8.72 per cent for the two-month period, compared with a loss of 8.41 per cent for the whole of last year. All types of MPF funds reported lower returns than the stock market benchmark for the past three months.
Tang said: 'The MPF spreads risks. The equity market did well in the first quarter, but when the market is bearish, you can lose a lot of money in the stock market.'
He said the MPF should achieve a stable performance in the first half of the year, as China, the United States and European countries were adopting a looser monetary policy, which would be good news for the asset markets.
The MPF requires employers and employees to contribute 5 per cent of salaries, up to a maximum of HK$1,000 a month, into funds run by banks, insurance firms or fund companies. Employees can generally only withdraw the amount in their accounts when they retire.
The amount of assets, in Hong Kong dollars, that was contained in the Mandatory Provident Fund as at the end of last year