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Participants’ balances in Fidelity-client 401(k) plans highest in 12-plus years

The average participant balance in corporate 401(k) plans for which Fidelity Investments is record keeper reached $75,900 in the quarter ended Sept. 30, the highest level since Fidelity began tracking the data more than 12 years ago, confirmed Michael Shamrell, a company spokesman.

The average balance for the third quarter was 4.2% higher than the previous quarter and 18% above the third quarter of 2011.

Mr. Shamrell said in e-mail that 78% of the balance increase in the latest quarter and 74% for the 12-month period were due to market action, and 22% for the quarter and 26% for the 12-month period were the result of participant and employer contributions.

The average annual employee contribution grew 7.3% over the last five years ended Sept. 30 to $5,900. The average annual corporate match rose 19% over the same period, to $3,420.

For the 14th consecutive quarter, more participants in the third quarter increased their deferral rates (4.6%) than reduced them (2.8%). Most kept their deferral rates steady.

The Fidelity analysis was based on 12 million 401(k) participant accounts in more than 20,200 corporate DC plans, according to a Fidelity news release Thursday.