The deficit faced by defined benefit pension schemes improved slightly last month, according to the latest PPF 7800 figures published yesterday by the Pension Protection Fund.
In total, the aggregate deficit of the 6,432 schemes which pay a levy to the lifeboat fund was £265.5bn at the end of January. This represents a small decrease from the £270.8bn estimated at the end of December 2011.
The slight improvement in the total deficit was accompanied by a reduction in the number of schemes in deficit, from 5,412 to 5,388 and a corresponding increase in those in surplus, from 1,020 to 1,044.
With total assets at £1,031.2bn at the end of January 2012 and total liabilities at £1,296.8bn, the funding ration improved slightly from 78.9% the previous month to 79.5%.
However, year-on-year comparisons show how the situation facing schemes in the index has worsened over the past 12 months. At the end of January 2011, the PPF 7800 actually recorded a surplus of £38.5bn.
Similarly, 12 months ago, 3,582 schemes were in deficit and 2,850 schemes were in surplus - more than twice the number estimated to be in surplus at the end of last month.
The PPF noted that year-on-year comparisons should take into account the changes in assumptions for s179 valuations which came into effect on April 1 2011. These raised scheme liabilities by 3.6% and reduced the aggregate balance by £34.9bn.