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Gain in funding of large-employer pension plans limited by interest rate drop


Aided by a rise in the equity markets, the funded status of pension plans sponsored by large employers rose slightly in March, Mercer L.L.C. said Wednesday.

On average, pension plans sponsored by companies in the S&P 1500 were 79% funded at the end of March, up from 78% at the end of February.

Plan funding would have been better if interest rates had stayed steady, rather than falling in March.

“March was a great reminder of how much influence interest rates have over the funded status of pension plans,” Jim Ritchie, a partner in Mercer's retirement business, said in a statement. “Despite strong equity markets in March, the S&P 1500 pension funded status only increased by 1% because of an approximately 20 basis point decrease in interest rates.”

In all, the plans had $1.82 trillion in assets and $2.31 trillion in liabilities at the end of March, Mercer said.

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