The combined deficit of defined benefit (DB) pension schemes in the UKs private sector has almost halved in the last 12 months, according to a monthly index by JLT Employee Benefits.
It reveals that the deficit for these schemes stood at £78bn on 30 April 2018, down from the £146bn recorded at the same time last year, while funding levels have increased from 91% to 95%.
Total assets fell by £2bn during that time, while liabilities decreased by £70bn - despite recent poor GDP figures indicating the UK economy is on the brink of stagnation.
"Markets continue to be positive for pension schemes, and overall reported deficits are showing a strong improvement from 12 months ago," JLT director, Charles Cowling, said.
"It had been thought quite likely that the Bank of England would raise interest rates, but the latest weak GDP growth figures may once again have put back the date of the next rise."
The data shows that the DB pension deficit for FTSE 100 companies decreased from £40bn at the end of April last year to £15bn as of yesterday, with assets falling by £4bn, and liabilities by £29bn.
FTSE 350 firms' deficit fell from £50bn to £22bn, with assets down by £5bn, and liabilities decreasing by £33bn.
The funding level for these schemes increased from 94% to 97% during that time, and from 94% to 98% for FTSE 100 companies.
This comes after the government granted The Pensions Regulator (TPR) powers to enforce funding standards through a revised code, focused on prudence when assessing liabilities, and appropriate factors for recovery plans.
TPR will also be given powers to issue punitive fines to companies that deliberately put schemes at risk, while directors that have "committed wilful or grossly reckless behaviour" could be criminally prosecuted.
Cowling said: "The regulator will be taking a tougher stance on lengthy recovery plans and situations where dividends to shareholders are greater than deficit recovery contributions to pension schemes.
"Now may be a good time for companies and trustees to take advantage of recent positive market conditions and reduce risk in their pension schemes."