The median U.S. defined benefit plan in the Northern Trust universe returned 7% in the first quarter, largely aided by strong equity markets.
Public plans fared the best; the median public fund returned 7.7%.
The median for corporate pension plans, endowments and foundations was 6.9%, according to a news release from Northern Trust.
The median plan has gained 15% in the past three years following positive returns in 10 of the last 12 quarters, according to the release.
In the first quarter, the median U.S. equity strategy returned 12.9%, four basis points ahead of the Russell 3000. International equity returned 12%, followed by hedge funds, 4.8%; real estate, 2.6%; private equity, 2.2%; and fixed income, 1.6%.
Corporate plans have the greatest three- and five-year returns as of March 31 at 17.9% and 3.6%, respectively, according to the news release.
Public funds returned 16.1% for three years and 3% for five years, while endowments and foundations returned 14.9% and 2.5%, respectively.
The Northern Trust universe consists of about 300 large institutional plans with a combined $733.5 billion.