US - Global pension fund deficits improved over last year thanks largely to movements in international corporate bond markets caused by the credit crunch, according to the research by actuaries Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP).
Speaking to Global Pensions, Colin Haines, a partner in the international practice, LCP, said: "What we have seen in the UK in terms of volatility in deficits holds true in international markets as well."
These fluctuations were caused by a combination of falling liabilities, due to rising corporate bond yields and losses on asset values.
LCP warned over the risks of holding equities to back pension plans, as the company said further losses of £40bn had been incurred over the first half of the year due to falling stock markets.
There was a 10% chance of losses doubling to £80bn over the next 12 months, LCP said, based on pension fund asset allocations disclosed in their 2007 annual reports.
The research showed the majority of funds had reduced allocations to equities - notably US funds - but still had 50% or more of scheme assets in stocks at the end of 2007.
In terms of mortality assumptions, LCP found little common ground throughout the industry, with few choosing to disclosure the actuarial assumptions used.
Haines said for the companies which did reveal their mortality assumptions, rates varied widely from company to company, and in many cases it was difficult to understand why such assumptions were employed. Only one US company in the group published its assumptions.
"What we found outside of the UK is that very few funds have disclosed their mortality assumptions. What's driven that is there are no requirements to do so under US general accounting practices," Haines added.
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