Nothing like a stock market rally to alleviate concerns about a pension funding crisis.
The funded status for the typical US corporate pension plan climbed 4.4 percentage points to 80.3 percent, the best status since May 31, 2010, according to BNY Mellon Asset Management's monthly report.
Over the past two months the typical plan has experienced a nine percentage-point improvement in funded status.
The two straight monthly improvements, not coincidentally, tracks two strong months for the global stock markets. BNY Mellon also cited declining liabilities for the improvement.
Assets for the typical plan rose 2.5 percent in October, according to the report. During the month, the Russell 3000 Index climbed 3.9 percent while a widely-followed international stock index rose 3.6 percent, according to BNY Mellon.
The increase in the Aa corporate discount rate to 5.23 percent from 4.98 percent resulted in a 3.2 percent decline in the typical plan's liabilities, the report said.
Plan liabilities are calculated using the yields of long-term investment grade corporate bonds. Higher yields on these bonds result in lower liabilities.
Don't get too giddy. BNY Mellon warns that a funding level of just above 80 is still historically low.
Meanwhile, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation recently announced that the maximum insurance benefit for participants in underfunded pension plans terminating in 2011 will be $54,000 per year for those who retire at age 65, unchanged from 2010. The amount is higher for those who retire later and lower for those who retire earlier or elect survivor benefits.
For example, if you retire at 70, the maximum benefit is $89,640 while at 75 it is $164,160.
The PBGC maximum insurance benefit is indexed to a contribution and benefit base in Social Security law. That amount is also not increasing for 2011.
If a pension plan terminates in 2011 but a participant does not begin collecting benefits until a future year, the 2011 maximum insurance limits still apply. For plans that terminate while the plan sponsor is in bankruptcy proceedings, the Pension Protection Act of 2006 provides that the maximum benefit payable is determined by the legal limits in force on the date the plan sponsor filed for bankruptcy and not on the date of plan termination.