The funded status of big U.S. defined benefit pension plans is still better than it was a year ago – but low interest rates are starting to hurt.

Analysts at Milliman Inc., Seattle, have reported those findings in their May pension funding report.

The Milliman analysts create the report by analyzing data from 100 large U.S. pension plans.

The plans’ funded status increased to 85.6% at the end of April, up from 79% a year earlier. The plans’ cumulative asset return was about 14% over that period.

But pension plan money managers invest heavily in corporate bonds, government bonds and other debt securities. Because interest lates on high-quality bonds are low, the projected value of plan liabilities has increased, and plan’s overall funded status has fallen from 87.2% at the end of April.

- Allison Bell

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