The aggregate funded ratio of S&P 500 companies’ defined benefit pension plans improved 2.2 percentage points in 2010 to 85.1%, shrinking the funding shortfall to $192.7 billion, according to Wilshire Consulting.
The median funded ratio was 81.9% at the end of 2010, up from 78.4% a year earlier.
The S&P 500 companies’ combined pension assets increased $117.9 billion, or 12%, to $1.1 trillion last year, while liabilities increased $108.3 billion, or 9%, to $1.29 trillion.
The median plan returned an estimated 12% in 2010, compared with 16.2% a year earlier.
The discount rate used to determine liabilities fell five percentage points to 5.5%, while total liabilities increased 9.1%.
"We saw a decline in interest rates, but the asset return was strong enough that it overcame that increase," Steven J. Foresti, Wilshire managing director and one of the authors of the report, said in a telephone interview.