US pension briefing – September 2021
- Discount rates were up for the second month in a row and finished the quarter roughly where they started.
- Asset returns were generally down across the board.
- Funded status for most pension plans likely declined during the month as liability gains were more than offset with asset losses.
September 2021 summary
September proved to be a mixed bag for pension plan sponsors. On the one hand, discount rates continued their slow upward momentum from the last couple of months. On the other hand, markets retreated for their worst month so far in 2021 with equities taking a decent hit during the month, and with rising rates, fixed income was down as well.
Even with the decline in liabilities due to increasing discount rates, for plans with modest equity exposure, funded status most likely deteriorated.
Discount rates & asset returns
FTSE pension discount rate index last 12 months
After a slight increase in August, discount rates continued to rise in September, increasing by 0.12% by month-end. Current discount rates are now up 0.35% since the end of 2020 and are up 0.22% from this time last year. The FTSE pension discount index finished September at 2.87%.
September returns (%)
Global equities declined as major central banks started taking a hawkish shift and growth momentum slowed due to supply-side disruptions. Emerging markets were dragged down as regulations weighed on Chinese equities. Long-term Treasury yields rose following the Fed’s latest projection of faster-than-expected future rate hikes and long-term corporate bonds finished down. Credit spreads stayed tight. The US Dollar appreciated while gold depreciated amid growing confidence that the Fed is ready to start winding down support measures like asset purchases.
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