US - State and public pension funds ended 2008 with an aggregate deficit of US$237bn, latest Wilshire Associates data reveals.
Wilshire said the actual coverage ratio of plans which had reported on this basis was 77%, down from 94% last year - while the estimated coverage ratio for all plans was 84%, a decline from 96% in 2007.
On an actuarial basis, plans which had reported their funding status faced an aggregated deficit of $202.3bn, an improvement from the $362.7bn deficit in 2007, while the reported and estimated funding ratios were 81% and 86% respectively.
The consultant said solvent plans and under-funded schemes together could "mask the underlying fiscal strength or weakness of individual plans", due to the non-transferability of assets.
It said 55 of the 59 schemes which had produced data were under-funded. In isolation, their aggregate shortfall increased to $240.5bn, or a funding ratio of 73%.
In contrast, the four schemes which had greater assets than liabilities had a funding excess of $3.5bn and a funding ratio of 103%.
In terms of asset allocations, public plans predominantly invested in equities, with US and international shares comprising 56.9% of assets. Since 2003, Wilshire noted, the proportion of US equities held had decreased slightly, from 42.3% to 38.1%, while international equities had increased to 18.8% from 12.9%.
Similarly, overall bond holdings fell, from 36.6% in 2003 to 31.6% in 2008, with US bonds falling from 35.2% to 26.7% and non-US bonds falling a half percentage to 0.9%. Some of the reduced debt holdings were offset by an average 4% allocation to 'other' debt instruments over the period.
A number of pension schemes have been prompted to lock in gains with a move into bonds after the estimated deficit across FTSE 100 DB pension schemes improved by £36bn, over the 12 months ending 30 June last year, JLT Employment Benefits found.
HM Treasury has agreed in principle to give NEST a £329m contingent liability guarantee in the event of the master trust's wind up or closure.
AMP Capital has set up a dedicated team to help institutional investors, including pension funds, invest in infrastructure through direct equity allocations.