Volume 11, No. 7 & 8

 

Pondering Pensions, 2001:  The Face Of The Shmoo:  Pension plans are omnipresent in their effects on corporate earnings. Like steady drumming tracks add rhythm to a pop song, pension plan accounting makes for a solid backbeat under the more obvious income and expense "instruments." The market losses of 2001 were tough on pension funds; lots of companies had enjoyed overfunded plans that contributed handsomely to earnings while the bull market was in its ascendancy. As markets hit the wall in 2001, many companies saw their overfunded status melt like ice cream on a New Orleans sidewalk in July. Yet the earnings-friendly effects of pension accounting lingered in the 2001 earnings. Analysts and investors didn't always pay much attention to the earnings contributions of pension plans - but the pain of market losses felt by all during the last year have made them newly wary. Trouble is, it can't be reduced to a few tasty sound bites. This report is an attempt to define just where pensions plans stood at year end 2001, how they affected earnings, and what the effects on future earnings and liquidity might be. The process is carried out by examining the pension footnotes of the S&P 100 companies for the hard facts.

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