US pension briefing – October 2022

Key takeaways

  • Discount rates continued climbing, ending the month at yet another recent high point.
  • Equity returns were positive for the month, but are still significantly down for the year. With the continued rise in rates, U.S. Treasuries and most corporate investment bond grades again posted losses for the month.
  • With liabilities decreasing with the rising discount rates, most pension plans will see an increase in their funded status this month, particularly those with more equity exposure.

October 2022 summary

The Treasury yield curve continued to rise in September, with intermediate-term yields gaining significantly. In a continued attempt to combat inflation, the Fed hiked interest rates by another 0.75% to reach a target rate of 3.00% to 3.25%. With discount rates up around 0.69% in September, plan sponsors can expect that their liabilities saw a meaningful decline over the month.

Equity markets continued to struggle in September with major US and international market indices falling more than 9%. Year-to-date losses for most of these indices are now above 25%. Credit spreads also widened during the month as persistent global inflation and ongoing interest rate hikes have investors concerned about the potential for an upcoming recession. Pension plans with moderate to high equity exposure may experience a marginal decline in funded status coming out of September, but a nearly 0.70% rise in discount rates will result in a sizable decline in liability values, which should benefit all plans significantly.

Discount rates & asset returns

FTSE pension discount rate index last 12 months

Source: FTSE Pension Liability Index

Discount rates continued to increase in October, with the FTSE pension discount curve finishing the month at 5.51%, a 0.34% increase from the end of September and the highest the curve has been in over a decade. Current rates are up 2.74% from the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, credit spreads narrowed, and Treasury rates increased on the longer end of the curve, while rates on the shorter end finished October roughly in-line with rates from the end of September.

October 2022 investment returns (%)

Source: Morningstar

US equities gained back some ground in October, after several weeks of negative returns. The rise came despite the Fed confirming that tighter monetary policy is still needed to contain the currently high level of inflation. The bond market had mixed results in October with high yield bonds gaining 2.6% and aggregate bonds losing 1.3%. Credit spreads narrowed modestly over the month besides high yield corporate spreads narrowing by approximately 1.0%. After multiple months of gains the dollar index lost 0.5%. The 10-year Treasury yield ended the month slightly over 4.0%.


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