Retirement Update – November 2019
- Discount rates were little changed over the past month.
- Equity returns, especially international and emerging market returns, had noticeable gains.
- October funding levels most likely modestly improved as assets outpaced liabilities.
October 2019 Summary
Despite the Fed lowering rates in October, long-term corporate bond yields stayed relatively flat for the month. At the same time because of a relative calm on the geopolitical front, equity returns posted a decent month led by international and emerging market stocks. When taken together, most plans that have some return seeking assets in their portfolio would have seen funded status increases over the month.
Discount Rates & Asset Returns
Discount rates remained relatively flat in October, only increasing 0.003%. However, current rates are still down over 1% since year end 2018 and are 1.3% lower than rates from this time last year. The FTSE pension discount index finished October at 3.14%.
Softening trade and geopolitical tension, as well as improving economic data, spurred a risk on appetite. Given the rally, emerging market equities increased by 4.2%, outperforming both U.S. equities and international developed equities which returned 2.2% and 3.6% respectively. Bond markets were primarily flat for the month, with the exception of high yield bonds which saw a small increase in returns at 0.5% as spreads compressed. As a result, equities and other risk assets performed well, which benefited funding levels for the month.
What’s New at R&M?
Managing Director, Michael Clark, wrote a piece for BenefitsPRO on the problems pension plans can pose in M&A transactions if not dealt with properly. Read More
Managing Director, Tom Cassara, shares his views on the MEP provision and its appeal to small employers in this CFO article. Read More
R&M Managing Director Appointed as President of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries
Managing Director, Michael Clark took over as the President of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries following the conclusion of the organization’s Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX at the end of October. Read More
Q: With interest rates used to value pension liabilities at historical lows, do liability driven investment strategies still make sense?
A: The short answer is a resounding “Yes!” Although to effectively protect against the effects of interest rate movements, it may require plan sponsors to look beyond the typical strategies available in the marketplace in favor of more sophisticated strategies.
For plan sponsors that want the ability to maintain the upside potential of interest rate rises but still be able to protect against interest rates going lower there are strategies to explore. In October we wrote about one of these strategies. Using interest rates collars would allow plan sponsors to participate in the upside if rates do go up while protecting themselves against further funded status losses if rates go the other way. Another strategy that is being implemented globally is the use of swaptions. These are derivative instruments that effectively give a plan sponsor the option to put in place a liability hedge.
Have a question for R&M? Please submit it to email@example.com and look for a possible answer in next month’s update!