NU Online News Service, May 24, 2004, 2:15 p.m. EDT – Defined benefit pension plans probably did well in Australia and poorly in the United States during the first quarter.[@@]

Analysts at Towers Perrin L.P., New York, found that Australia led the Towers Perrin quarterly pension plan survey with a 1.4-percentage point increase in plan funding levels.

The United States came in last. In the United States, defined benefit plan funding levels fell 2.1 percentage points. That means the typical U.S. defined benefit plan may have only about 63.9% of the amount of assets it needs to cover its obligations to plan participants, according to a summary of the survey results.

Australia plan sponsors enjoyed strong local investment returns, while U.S. sponsors suffered from falling asset returns and a lower benchmark discount rate, the Towers Perrin analysts report.

Towers Perrin analysts assess the pension fund climate in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the “Euro zone,” Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States by looking at the effects of interest rate and investment performance shifts on typical benchmark plans in each market.