Market rebound helps to fuel first positive month of 2016 for corporate defined benefit plans
NEW YORK, April 19, 2016 – According to the BNY Mellon Institutional Scorecard, the funded status of typical U.S. corporate defined benefit (DB) plans increased by 1.5 percent in March, to 80.2 percent. The increase marks the first positive month of 2016, as the funded status of corporate DB plans had previously fallen every month since October, 2015.
Over the course of the month, assets returned 5.1 percent, and liabilities were up 3.1 percent. Corporate discount rates fell by 19 basis points, to 4.00 percent. Much of the gain in liabilities was due to tightening credit spreads, as Treasury yields remained mostly flat throughout the month. According to BNY Mellon estimates, the S&P pension deficit also fell by roughly $18 billion in March, to $423 billion.
Overall, corporate pension assets are up 3.2 percent year-to-date, but still down 0.9 percent over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, liabilities are up 7.5 percent year-to-date, and up 1.5 percent since March, 2015. The funded status of a typical corporate DB plans is now up roughly 4 percent off of their 2016 low, which occurred in mid-February.
Of the asset classes the scorecard tracks, almost all saw positive returns in March. Emerging Market Equities and Private Equities returned 13.2 and 10.3 percent, respectively. REITs returned 9.5 percent, and Small Cap Equities and Large Cap equities returned 8.0 and 6.8 percent, respectively. Hedge Fund returns remained flat in March, and were the only asset class not to see positive returns on the month.
“Many pundits are attributing the March rally to the Federal Reserve, who continues to remain on hold with respect to further rate hikes,” said Andrew Wozniak, head of BNY Mellon Fiduciary Solutions. “And now, after the Fed released their latest meeting minutes, the speculation among many investors is that rates will again be held steady in April, following the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting.”
In March, public DB plans and endowments & foundations both beat their return targets by 5 percent respectively which, for both, marks the first positive month since October 2015.
Typical public DB plans are now only 5 basis points behind their year-to-date return target, though they remain 9.5 percent behind their one-year return target. Assets have, in total, dropped by 2.0 percent over that time period.
Similarly, endowments & foundations are ahead of their year-to-date target by 59 basis points, and are 8.34 percent behind their 12 month return target.
Notes to Editors:
BNY Mellon Fiduciary Solutions is a division of The Bank of New York Mellon.
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