Milliman has released the results of its latest Pension Funding Index (PFI), which analyzes the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans. In September, these pension plans experienced their largest improvement year-to-date, with a $26 billion increase in funded status. The improvement was the result of a nine-basis-point increase in discount rates coupled with market value gains, which saw the Milliman PFI plans’ funded ratio climb from 83.0% to 84.3% for the month.
While September’s positive performance is welcome news for these pensions, it’s tempered somewhat by the recent release of the new mortality tables by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Much of the fourth quarter will be spent in anticipation of how the new regulation will affect 2018 cash contribution funding, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) premiums, and de-risking efforts.
Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 3.84% by the end of 2017 and 4.44% by the end of 2018) and asset gains (11.0% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 87% by the end of 2017 and 101% by the end of 2018. Under a pessimistic forecast (3.54% discount rate at the end of 2017 and 2.94% by the end of 2018 and 3.0% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 83% by the end of 2017 and 76% by the end of 2018.
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