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Pension plan assets increased from $1.33 trillion at the end of 2016 to an estimated $1.43 trillion at the end of 2017. (Photo: Getty)

The stock market helped, and so did employer contributions that were greater than expected—giving the largest U.S. pension plans a “modest” improvement in funded status at year-end 2017 over where they were at the end of 2016.

That’s according to a Willis Towers Watson analysis, which finds that, among the 389 Fortune 1000 companies that sponsor U.S. defined benefit pension plans  and have a December fiscal-year-end date, the aggregate pension funded status is estimated to be 83 percent at the end of 2017, compared with 81 percent at the end of 2016.

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