Milliman today released the results of its latest Pension Funding Index (PFI), which analyzes the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans. In April, these pensions experienced a $29 billion increase in funded status thanks to healthy investment gains and an increase in the benchmark corporate bond interest rates used to value pension liabilities. The market value of assets rose by $13 billion thanks to April’s robust investment gain of 1.09%. Discount rates also climbed in April, increasing seven basis points from 3.78% at the end of March to 3.85% as of April 30. Pension liabilities dropped by $16 billion as a result. The funding ratio of the Milliman 100 PFI during April rose from 89.7% to 91.4%.
April was a solid month for corporate pensions, with strong investment returns and a discount rate increase that helped to boost funding levels. Overall 2019 is starting out quite well, with above-expected asset returns in each of the first four months of the year. Discount rates making their way north of 4.0% again would further add to the optimism around pension funding.
Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 4.25% by the end of 2019 and 4.85% by the end of 2020) and asset gains (10.6% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 101% by the end of 2019 and 117% by the end of 2020. Under a pessimistic forecast (3.45% discount rate at the end of 2019 and 2.85% by the end of 2020 and 2.6% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 87% by the end of 2019 and 80% by the end of 2020.
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