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Aided by a strong equities market, the funding levels of large corporate pension plans improved in February but still are significantly below levels of just a few months ago, according to an analysis released Friday by Mercer L.L.C.
The average funding level of pension plans sponsored by companies in the S&P 1500 improved to 79% as of Feb. 29, up from 78% as of Jan. 31 and 75% as of Dec. 31, 2011.
“U.S. pension plan funded status has gotten off to a good start in 2012,” Jonathan Barry, a Mercer partner in Boston, said in a statement.
“But before sponsors declare the pension crisis to be over, it is important to realize we have had numerous examples over the past few years of funded-status improvements quickly wiped out by market movements,” Mr. Barry said.
In fact, at 79%, the average funding level of large plans is well below the 2011 peak funded status, set in April when plans had an average funded ratio of 88%.
On an aggregate basis, plans sponsored by S&P 1500 companies were underfunded by $410 billion as of Feb. 29, an improvement from the end of January, when the aggregate funding deficit was $431 billion.
For the second consecutive year, the funded status of pension plans sponsored by large employers has dropped, according to an analysis released Wednesday.