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When the California State Teachers' Retirement System lowered its assumed annual rate of return in January for the second time in a little over a year, something was obviously afoot.

The $144.8-billion fund's board of directors agreed to cut its target expected return from 7.75% to 7.5%. The move comes more than a year after the board was asked to make an even more drastic rate cut, from 8% to 7.5%, in December 2010, but the action was deemed too severe at the time.

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