The great year just posted by corporate pension funds in 2013, in which they ended the 12 months 95 percent funded, seems even more impressive when compared to a Towers Watson analysis which shows that 70 percent of systems were less than 80 percent funded at the end of 2012.

The analysis of 599 Fortune 1000 companies also documented the changes in actuarial assumptions that pension fund managers have made in recent years. For 2012, the discount rate used to value liabilities varied from 2.7 percent to 5.5 percent, with an average of 3.94 percent.

Those figures were down from 2011 when they were between 3.5 percent and 6.3 percent, with an average of 4.68 percent. Since 1999, the average has fallen by about 50 percent.

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