The 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans' funded status dropped slightly in February, to 81.5% from 81.7% in January, according to the latest Milliman 100 Pension Funding Index.
The aggregate pension deficit increased by $6 billion to $311 billion as of Feb. 28. Pension liabilities increased $17 billion to $1.683 trillion as a result of the discount rate dropping five basis points to 4.4%.
An investment gain of 0.89% in the month boosted total assets by $11 billion to $1.372 trillion overall.
Over the last 12 months, the cumulative asset return has been 7.74%, but the overall pension deficit has actually increased by $26 billion as the discount rate has dropped from 4.69% a year ago.
“Assets continued to climb in February, but as usual it was interest rates that ultimately drove pension funded status,” said John Ehrhardt, principal and consulting actuary at Milliman and co-author of the report, in a news release. “Thanks to cooperative interest rates in January, we are still ahead for the year. Even with the Dow hitting new record highs, it will ultimately be interest rates that dictate the pension funding story in 2013.”