Tag Archives: Pension Funding Index

Five months of corporate pension funded status improvement ends with February’s $6 billion decline

Milliman today released the results of its latest Pension Funding Index (PFI), which analyzes the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans. In February, after five months of steady improvement, these pension plans experienced a $6 billion decline in funded status primarily due to discount rates that plunged from 4.00% in January to 3.89% in February, an 11 basis point drop. The funded ratio for these pensions inched down from 81.6% to 81.5% over the same time period. Robust investment gains of 1.74% helped offset the funded status decline.

While February’s strong investment gains helped soften the blow dealt by the discount rate decline, all eyes are on interest rates right now. The Federal Reserve has signaled it will raise rates this month, which would be welcome news for pension plans.

Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 4.39% by the end of 2017 and 4.99% by the end of 2018) and asset gains (11.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 91% by the end of 2017 and 104% by the end of 2018. Under a pessimistic forecast (3.39% discount rate at the end of 2017 and 2.79% by the end of 2018 and 3.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 75% by the end of 2017 and 69% by the end of 2018.

The year 2017 starts with corporate funded status improvement of $9 billion

Milliman today released the results of its latest Pension Funding Index (PFI), which analyzes the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans. The year 2017 opened optimistically, with the funded status for these pension plans improving by $9 billion due to January’s investment gain of 0.87% as well as a small rise in corporate bond rates used to value pension liabilities. As a result, the funded ratio for these plans climbed 0.5% to 81.6% from 81.1% in December 2016.

January marks the fifth straight month of funded status improvement, with discount rates once again returning to 4.0%—albeit barely. And with investment returns coming in above expectations, 2017 seems like it’s off to a positive start for pensions.

Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 4.55% by the end of 2017 and 5.15% by the end of 2018) and asset gains (11.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 92% by the end of 2017 and 105% by the end of 2018. Under a pessimistic forecast (3.45% discount rate at the end of 2017 and 2.85% by the end of 2018 and 3.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 75% by the end of 2017 and 69% by the end of 2018.

Pension funded status comes almost full circle at 2016 year-end

Wadia_ZorastMilliman today released the results of its latest Pension Funding Index (PFI), which analyzes the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans. In December, the funded status for these pension plans improved by $13 billion due to robust investment returns of 1.17%, and the funded ratio increased from 80.3% to 81.0% to close out the year. Overall, interest rate declines characterized 2016, with the end of August marking the lowest discount rate (at 3.32%) in the PFI’s 16-year history. Since that point and coincident with the conclusion of the U.S. presidential election, interest rates have steadily increased.

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Last year was a rollercoaster of a year, but we’re ending up nearly where we started—with a funded ratio of 81.0%. Going into 2017, rumors of potential multiple interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve have plan sponsors and pension practitioners closely watching market activity. If interest rates continue to climb, the funded ratio could make some major gains.

Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 4.59% by the end of 2017 and 5.19% by the end of 2018) and asset gains (11.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 93% by the end of 2017 and 106% by the end of 2018. Under a pessimistic forecast (3.39% discount rate at the end of 2017 and 2.79% by the end of 2018 and 3.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 74% by the end of 2017 and 68% by the end of 2018.

Corporate pension funded status sees largest improvement of 2016, gaining $71 billion in November

Wadia_ZorastMilliman has released the results of its latest Pension Funding Index (PFI), which analyzes the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans. In November, the funded status for these pension plans experienced its largest increase of the year, improving by $71 billion, primarily due to interest rate gains that reduced the deficit for the Milliman 100 plans to $340 billion. The funded ratio for these plans climbed sharply, increasing three percentage points from 77.2% to 80.3%.

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While plan sponsors are pleased with the third straight month of funded status improvement, all eyes are on interest rates as we near the December 30 measurement date. Discount rates have climbed 66 basis points since their record low in August, now the question is whether we’ll see interest rates climb above 4% by year’s end.

Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 4.63% by the end of 2017 and 5.23% by the end of 2018) and asset gains (11.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 93% by the end of 2017 and 106% by the end of 2018. Under a pessimistic forecast (3.33% discount rate at the end of 2017 and 2.73% by the end of 2018 and 3.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 73% by the end of 2017 and 66% by the end of 2018.

Corporate funded status improves by $28 billion in October, biggest boost of 2016

Wadia_ZorastMilliman today released the results of its latest Pension Funding Index (PFI), which analyzes the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans. In October, the funded status for these pension plans experienced its largest increase of the year, improving by $28 billion, primarily due to interest rate gains that resulted in a $45 billion decrease in pension liabilities. The funded ratio for these plans climbed a whole percentage point, from 76.3% to 77.3%.

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This is the second straight month of funded status gains but we’re far from celebrating. These plans are still down $103 billion for the year, thanks to decreases in interest rates and lower-than-expected investment returns. Throw in a divisive election on November 8, and we’ll see what the rest of 2016 has in store for these plans.

Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 3.71% by the end of 2016 and 4.31% by the end of 2017) and asset gains (11.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 79% by the end of 2016 and 90% by the end of 2017. Under a pessimistic forecast (3.51% discount rate at the end of 2016 and 2.91% by the end of 2017 and 3.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 76% by the end of 2016 and 69% by the end of 2017.

Corporate pension funded status improved by $19 billion in September

Wadia_ZorastMilliman today 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 a $19 billion improvement in funded status, which was primarily due to a $24 billion decrease in pension liabilities. The funded status for these pensions inched upward from 75.6% to 76.3%.

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It had been a lousy quarter for pension funding but this month made up for it. These plans are still down by $130 billion for the year, largely because of ballooning liabilities, but at least September ended with discount rates rising by 10 basis points, in a year where we’ve otherwise seen discount rates mostly decline.

Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 3.57% by the end of 2016 and 4.17% by the end of 2017) and asset gains (11.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 79% by the end of 2016 and 91% by the end of 2017. Under a pessimistic forecast (3.27% discount rate at the end of 2016 and 2.67% by the end of 2017 and 3.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 75% by the end of 2016 and 68% by the end of 2017.