Defined benefit (DB) schemes saw a £20bn reprieve on their deficits over the course of March, PwC's SkyVal index shows.
The financial services firm found that, on the funding measure used to calculate cash contributions from sponsoring employers, the estimated deficit of private sector schemes sat at £500bn, down from £520bn at the end of February. Assets totalled £1.5trn, while liabilities amounted to £2trn.
On the IAS 19 accounting measure, the schemes fared slightly better, with deficits decreasing by £30bn to £340bn. On this method, DB schemes had £1.5trn of assets and £1.9trn of liabilities.
The figures are calculated using publically available data, included the Pension Protection Fund's dataset.
PwC's chief actuary Steven Dicker said the fall was due to a decrease in assumed inflation, but warned of the potential volatility ahead following the triggering of Article 50 last Wednesday.
He said: "This highlights how sensitive measurement of pension liabilities is to even modest changes. It can also be counterintuitive, as inflation is expected to rise further.
"Now the Brexit process has officially started, pension schemes face two years of uncertainty and potentially volatile deficits. This only adds to the challenge of long-term planning, especially when using a market ‘snapshot' approach for actuarial valuations.
"Many schemes will be considering alternatives to the traditional ‘gilts plus' approach to try to get a clearer picture of their liabilities."
The index also noted a smaller deficit figure when using a funding measure if allowances were not made for future longevity improvements. On this measure, the deficit sat at £260bn, down from £280bn at the end of February.
This came after the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) last week downgraded its longevity estimates, with many in the industry now concluding that the reduction in mortality improvements over the past six years can no longer be considered a blip.
An analysis by Lane Clark and Peacock suggested this reduction could allow DB schemes to wipe off up to 3% of their liabilities.
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