Defined benefit pension plans probably did well in Japan and poorly in the United States during the first quarter.[@@]

Analysts in the Stamford, Conn., office of Towers Perrin Inc. found that Japan led the firm’s quarterly pension plan climate survey with a 1.22-percentage point increase in funding levels at a typical “benchmark” plan.

The United States came in last. In the United States, the funding level at the benchmark plan fell 2.22 percentage points. That means the typical U.S. defined benefit plan may have only about 63% of the amount of assets it needs to cover its obligations to plan participants, according to a summary of the survey results.

Even though short-term interest rates are up in the United States, U.S. plan sponsors have suffered from a continuing slump in long-term interest rates, according to Towers Perrin researchers.

In addition, U.S. stock market returns have been particularly weak, the analysts write.