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Pension schemes ploughing more money into bonds than shares

Pension schemes are investing more money in bonds and shares for the first time in decades, according to an annual survey by the Pensions Regulator and the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

The research on final-salary schemes in the private sector revealed that these schemes now have 38.5% of their money in shares, but 43.2% in government and company bonds. This is the reverse of the situation a year ago, when 41.1% of funds were in shares and 40.1% in bonds.

The preference for investing in bonds over the past decade has been attributed to the fact that schemes are looking for less volatile investments.

The report also revealed that the proportion of final-salary pension schemes in the private sector closed to current members, as well as new ones, has increased in the last twelve months from 26% to 28%.

Mark Duke, of actuaries Towers Watson, said: “With funding levels badly under water, more employers may now decide that the first step towards solving the problem is to turn off the tap and stop adding to their liabilities.

“The pace of closure may have been relatively slow in the year to March but the trend is only in one direction.”

PPF research also revealed that the size of 6,316 so-called defined benefit (DB) schemes has more than doubled in the past year to reach £231 billion, up from £78.3 billion in March 2011.

Detailing some of the challenges faced by DB schemes, The Pensions Regulator's chief executive, Bill Galvin, said:

"We appreciate that the current economic situation presents a continuing challenge to trustees - low interest rates and low gilt yields have contributed to increased liabilities and deficits for many DB schemes."

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