The funded status of a typical U.S. defined benefit pension plan improved by 2.4 percentage points in January 2007.

It continues a trend that began in the fourth quarter of 2002 fourth quarter, according to Mellon Financial.

“U.S. equities were quite strong in January, helping to drive up the value of assets in most pension plans by 1%,” says Peter Austin, executive director of Mellon Pension Services.

Pension plans also benefited from a 1.4% percent decline in liabilities, which was linked to a 10-basis-point increase in long-term rates, he says. And continuing economic strength contributed to the higher long-term rates.

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