The funded ratio of the 100 largest U.S. public defined benefit pension plans increased to 76.8 per cent as of July 31, up from 75.8 per cent at the end of June, according to a new report by consulting firm Milliman Inc.

It found a second consecutive month of positive market performance drove this result, as plans experienced estimated aggregate investment returns of 1.9 per cent in July and gained approximately US$82 billion in market value. This was partially offset by a net negative cash flow of roughly $10 billion. Individual plans’ estimated July returns ranged from negative 0.1 per cent to 2.9 per cent.

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The total pension liability also increased to an estimated $6.085 trillion as of July 31, up from $6.070 trillion as of June 30.

“The July 31 funded status is now the highest ratio we’ve seen since May 31, 2022, when it reached 78.4 per cent,” said Becky Sielman, a consulting actuary at Milliman and co-author of the report, in a press release. “This improvement pushed two more plans over the 90-per-cent funded mark, for a total of 19, while the number of plans less than 60-per-cent funded remains stable at 23.”

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