The aggregate funding ratio for the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans increased four percentage points in 2009, to 82% as of Dec. 31, according to Towers Watson.
Aggregate funding for the pension plans increased by $26.1 billion in 2009, reducing the deficit to $183.5 billion, from $209.6 billion in 2008. The plans had a $93 billion surplus at the end of 2007.
Plan assets increased 12% in 2009 to $863 billion, up from $768 billion in 2008.
The average rate of return improved significantly in 2009 from a year earlier, ending the year at 18%, up from -24% in 2008.
Aggregate contributions to the pension plans nearly doubled in 2009, to $30.8 billion from $15.6 billion in 2008. The plans are expected to make about $19.6 billion in pension contributions in 2010.
Alan Glickstein, Towers Watson senior consultant, said in a telephone interview that although companies are making significant contributions to their pension plans, “they are nowhere near where they need to be” to be fully funded. He expects a significant increase in contributions in 2011 and 2012.
(The full report is available here.)