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Largest U.S. pension plans' funding steady: Analysis

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Funding levels of the largest U.S. corporate pension plans held steady last year amid slightly higher interest rates that lowered the value of plan liabilities roughly in line with the decline of plan assets, Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. said in an analysis.

London-based WTW's analysis of financial statements filed by sponsors of the 100 largest pension programs found the plans were an average 82.4% funded last year.

While unchanged from the prior year, funding levels are still much higher than the Great Recession when the average funding level sank to 74.9% in 2008 amid a plunge in the equity markets, down from 103% in 2007.

The brokerage's analysis also found that just six employers had fully funded or overfunded pension programs, unchanged from 2014. In addition, seven employer pension programs were 95% to 99.9% funded last year, up from six in 2014.

Employers contributed $20.6 billion to their pension programs in 2015, down from $26.8 billion in 2014 and the lowest since 2008 when employers funneled $16.9 billion into their plans.