The average funding ratio of the 100 publicly traded U.S. companies with the largest pension obligations increased three percentage points to 83% in 2010, according to Towers Watson.
The plans' aggregate assets also increased to $926 billion as of Dec. 31, up roughly 10% from a year earlier.
The Towers Watson 100 report notes that the 100 companies made combined contributions of just over $40 billion in 2010, compared to $30 billion a year earlier, according to a Towers Watson news release.
The average investment return for 2010 was 13%, down 4.8 percentage points from a year earlier. The average discount rate fell 46 basis points in 2010 to 5.46%.
Mike Archer, a senior retirement consultant at Towers Watson, said in a telephone interview that 2010 gains on assets were wiped out by liability increases due to falling interest rates. “The improvement in funded status was largely due to excess contributions,” he said.