(Adds comments from head of pension fund industry group)
SAO PAULO, March 15 (Reuters) - Brazilian pension funds last year probably had their worst annual performance since at least 2007, as liabilities rose and returns slumped in the wake of a deep political and economic crisis, an industry group said on Tuesday.
Pension funds running a deficit accumulated a shortfall of 64.9 billion reais ($18 billion) in the first 11 months of last year, the highest since at least 2007, said Abrapp, the group that represents funds in the country. Those funds posting surpluses piled up savings of 13 billion reais ($3.5 billion), also the lowest for the same period.
The wider deficit and declining savings were triggered by a slump in the value of financial assets in the country and to a "prudent tack" by fund managers to adjust the projected value of some assets, Abrapp President José Ribeiro Neto told a news conference. It is unlikely the pension funds will be able to narrow their deficits this year, he said.
Ribeiro Neto said pension funds are not "hiding away" liabilities.
A Brazilian policy body approved in November a rule allowing pension funds in state companies to take longer to recognize shortfalls. That change allowed the state companies' pension funds to narrow their shortfalls and forego immediate one-time contributions by employees.
Abrapp is discussing new rules governing local pension funds' investments abroad and expects them to be released this year.
$1 = 3.6842 Brazilian reais Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown