Strong stock market returns just weren't enough in 2014 to boost the funded status of the nation's largest corporate pension plans. Instead, a Towers Watson analysis found that they backslid substantially, losing much of what they had gained in 2013.

The analysis looked at pension plan data for the 411 Fortune 1000 companies that sponsor U.S. tax-qualified defined benefit pension plans and have a December fiscal-year-end date. Funded status for those plans by the end of 2014 had fallen 9 percentage points, costing plans nearly all their 2013 gains and leaving them funded at an aggregate of only 80 percent.

At the end of 2013, they were at 89 percent, compared with 77 percent at the end of 2012.

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