Corporate pension plans recorded some gains during October, but it’s going to take some work for them to come anywhere near close to the goals they set for the year.
That’s according to the latest Pension Funding Index from consulting and actuarial firm Milliman, Inc.
The analysis of the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans found that during October, the plans experienced an increase in funded status of $25 billion, based on a $33 billion increase in asset values and an $8 billion increase in pension liabilities.
The funded status for these pensions increased from 81.7 percent to 83.3 percent.
But that’s not enough to meet 2015 goals, after all the ground the plans lost in September. The value of all the invested assets in the funds fell by $19 billion, thanks to market losses and a drop in corporate bond interest rates during the month.
“It will take a massive rally in the fourth quarter for these 100 pensions to sniff their annual expected return of 7.3 percent,” said John Ehrhardt, co-author of the Milliman 100 Pension Funding Index, in a statement.
Ehrhardt said, “October was a great month for these pensions, but it may be too little too late as far as 2015 is concerned. Overall funded status has improved by only 1.8 percent this year, and this would be worse if it weren’t for interest rates inching in the right direction to reduce pension liabilities.”
Milliman projected, with “an optimistic forecast,” that if rising interest rates reached 4.26 percent by the end of 2015 and 4.86 percent by the end of 2016 and assets gained an annual return of 11.3 percent, the funded ratio would climb to 85 percent by the end of 2015 and 98 percent by the end of 2016.
A more pessimistic projection, with a discount rate of 4.06 percent at the end of 2015 and 3.46 percent by the end of 2016 and annual returns of 3.3 percent, predicted that the funded ratio would decline to 82 percent by the end of 2015 and 75 percent by the end of 2016.