US Pension Briefing – June 2024

Key takeaways

  • Discount rates dropped slightly due in June as the Treasury yield curve shifted lower.
  • Equities increased almost across the board and fixed income markets also performed well as rates dropped.
  • The strong market returns for the month were typically more than enough to cover liability growth resulting in funded status gains for most pension plans.

June 2024 summary

Treasury yields shifted lower across the curve during the month of June, decreasing pension discount rates while credit spreads widened slightly. With the slight drop in discount rates, we expect pension liabilities will have increased minimally, 0.5%-1.5%, depending on a pension plan’s characteristics.

Both equities and fixed income securities had a strong performance in June. The strong performance was largely driven by several indicators: the US labor market and inflation stabilization further alleviating some concerns about future interest rate hikes; and optimistic market outlook on technology and communication sectors with the recent advancements in artificial intelligence. These factors collectively contributed to the positive market sentiment and drove gains across most asset classes, especially in the technology sector.

The combined effect of June’s positive equity returns coupled with small discount rate decreases will most likely be positive news for pension plan funded statuses for the month. Plans with higher allocations to equities likely saw the greatest funded status gains.  

Discount rates & asset returns

FTSE pension discount rate index last 12 months

Source: FTSE Pension Liability Index

Discount rates dropped slightly during June, decreasing by 0.07%. Rates remain 0.44% higher than they were one year ago, and up 0.52% since the beginning of 2024. The month-to-month changes in June were the smallest we have seen in the last year. If economic data remains robust, especially inflation, then we would expect long-term rates to remain near current levels. Should economic data weaken, making Fed rate cuts more likely, then we would expect long-term interest rates to start decline.

US Treasury yield curve

Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury

The Treasury yield Curve shifted lower across all maturities except the 3month, where it rose slightly. The largest shifts occurred in the middle of the curve, as the 5 and 7year maturities declined by about 0.25%. The curve remains inverted, with the 2-year yield 0.35% higher than the 10-year yield. The next Fed meeting will be held at the end of July. Experts expect the Fed to hold the federal funds rate in place until more evidence shows that inflation is easing or the economy is cooling.

June 2024 Investment returns (%)

Source: Morningstar
Source: Morningstar

June was a strong month for US Equities and Emerging Markets Equities, posting gains of 3.10% and 3.94% respectively. International Developed Equites lost ground, sliding 1.61%.  Within US Equities, Information Technology, Consumer Discretionary, and Telecom Services were leaders, with respective gains of 9.32%, 4.89%, and 4.80%. Utilities were the worst performing sector, losing 5.51%. Fixed Income experienced positive returns as interest rates continued to fall, with longduration bonds slightly outperforming short-duration bonds. The US dollar index posted gains of 1.15%, and the price of gold remained stable. Credit spreads widened moderately relative to May month end.

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