The estimated aggregate funding level of pension plans sponsored by S&P 1500 companies dropped by 2% to 79% as of September 30th, 2015, from the combined effect of a drop in rates and losses in equity markets. As of September 30th, 2015, the estimated aggregate deficit of $457 billion USD increased by $43 billion as compared to the end of August. Funded status is now up by $47 billion USD from the $504 billion USD deficit measured at the end of 2014, according to Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and careers of individuals, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC).
The S&P 500 index lost 2.6% and the MSCI EAFE index lost 5.3% in September. Typical discount rates for pension plans as measured by the Mercer Yield Curve decreased by approximately 9 basis points to 4.14 percent.
“As the third quarter ends with a volatile September, funding levels have returned to December 31, 2014 levels, erasing gains from the first half of this year”, said Jim Ritchie, a Principal in Mercer’s Retirement business. “Gains in liabilities due to increased interest rates were offset by losses in the equity markets for the year. Because the Federal Reserve held rates steady this past month continuing the delay in expected interest rate increases, we expect to see more plan sponsors implement dynamic de-risking strategies to manage the continued volatility in funded status. According to CFO Magazine’s and Mercer’s 2015 CFO Pension De-risking Survey, 81% of CFOs have implemented or are considering implementing a dynamic de-risking policy for their pension programs. We expect this trend to increase over the next few years, especially with risk transfer strategies that effectively deal with the increased level of volatility that occurred this past month and throughout this year.”
Mercer estimates the aggregate funded status position of plans sponsored by S&P 1500 companies on a monthly basis. Figure 1 (page 3) shows the estimated aggregate surplus/(deficit) position and the funded status of all plans sponsored by companies in the S&P 1500. The estimates are based on each company’s year-end statement and by projections to September 30, 2015 in line with financial indices. The estimates include US domestic qualified and non-qualified plans and all non-domestic plans. The estimated aggregate value of pension plan assets of the S&P 1500 companies as of August 31, 2015, was $1.77 trillion USD, as compared with estimated aggregate liabilities of $2.19 trillion USD. Allowing for changes in financial markets through September 30, 2015, changes to the S&P 1500 constituents, and newly released financial disclosures, at the end of September the estimated aggregate assets were $1.75 trillion USD, compared with the estimated aggregate liabilities of $2.21 trillion USD. Figure 2 shows the interest rates used in Mercer’s pension funding calculation.
Notes for editors
Information on the Mercer Yield Curve is available at http://www.mercer.com/pensiondiscount .
The Mercer US Pension Buyout Index may be accessed at www.mercer.com/US-pension-buyout-index .
Unless otherwise stated, the calculations are based on the Financial Accounting Standard (FAS) funding position and include analysis of the S&P 1500 companies.
Mercer is a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investments. Mercer helps clients around the world advance the health, wealth and performance of their most vital asset – their people. Mercer’s more than 20,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), a global professional services firm offering clients advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With 57,000 employees worldwide and annual revenue exceeding $13 billion, Marsh & McLennan Companies is also the parent company of Marsh, a leader in insurance broking and risk management; Guy Carpenter, a leader in providing risk and reinsurance intermediary services; and Oliver Wyman, a leader in management consulting. For more information, visit www.mercer.com. Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer.
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