FAIRBANKS - The 2002 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend will be about $1,550, but fund officials say the near $300 decline from checks last year cannot be blamed on the volatile performance of the current stock market.
That's for the payout next year. State Department of Revenue Commissioner Wilson Condon said the dividend likely will be even lower next year.
"Given the market's performance, in order for it not to drop, we'd have to have the best year the fund's ever had, because of the way the average works," Condon said.
The dividend is based on earnings from a five-year performance of the Alaska Permanent Fund. The dividend this year represents fiscal years 1998 to 2002, which ended June 30.
The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Division has received about 618,000 applications for the check this year. Of those, about 55,000 were reported in need of more information or were under review, and 5,000 are duplicates. With about $925 million available for distribution, the amount of each check should return to the 1998 level.
The dividend has been smaller every year since the record payout of $1,963.86 in 2000, something Condon predicted would happen.
About 49 percent of the $24 billion dividend fund is invested in U.S. and international stock markets, said Bob Storer, Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. executive director.
In recent weeks, the fund has lost about $500 million in the stock market, Storer said. On Monday, the fund's director was unfazed by the stock market's dramatic morning drop of 440 points and its end-of-day rebound to a loss of just 45 points.
The fund is invested for long-term results, he said. The market has cyclical ups and downs. Wise investors know how to stay the course, he said.
"We are maintaining our disciplined approach to investing," he said.
Storer believes the nation's economy is on the mend. The market typically lags behind economic trends, he said. People have been predicting the market's recent volatility for years.
"We've said for a long time the bull market would not be sustainable," he said.