Rising stock markets around the world gave pension funds positive returns in 2003 for the first time since 1999.
-- In the United States, the average U.S. pension fund had a 21.44% return, according to figures from Callan Associates, San Francisco, compared with -8.6% in 2002.
-- U.K. pension funds had an average return of 16.8% in 2003, according to figures from The WM Co., London, compared with -14% in 2002.
-- Pension funds in Canada had an estimated return of 14.2%, according to figures from Frank Russell Co., Toronto, compared with -4.5% a year earlier.
c Japanese pension funds returned 8.8% in 2003, according to figures from Frank Russell's Tokyo office,compared with -9.4%.
-- In Switzerland, the average pension fund had an estimated return of 9.3%, compared with a -9.2% in 2002, according to figures from InterSec Research, Zurich.
-- The average Australian pension fund had an estimated return of 7.7% for 2003, according to results from Frank Russell's Sydney office, compared with -2% a year earlier.
In the United Kingdom, "after a poor start, U.K. pension fund returns accelerated throughout the rest of 2003," said Graham Wood, consultant at The WM Co. "This is the first positive performance since 1999."
"There is no doubt that 2003 will have offered pension funds some welcome relief from the gloom that has enveloped them in recent years," added Mr. Wood. "Many will have had their funding positions improve as a result of the returns available. It remains to be seen whether these improvements will continue through 2004."
U.K. equities returned 21.2%. Also, the strength of the euro, which rose 8.1% against the pound, boosted the equity returns from investments in continental Europe to 28.4%, according to the WM. However, the 10.1% slide of the U.S. dollar vs. the pound affected North American stock investment results, which came in at 16.2% for British pension funds.