UK - Pension funds provided by the top 100 UK-listed companies had a combined surplus of £40bn (€55bn) at the end of March, according to figures from Watson Wyatt.

Using its online Pension Deficit Index tool, the consulting firm found the FTSE 100 companies had combined surpluses to the tune of £40bn on an FRS17 basis - the largest sum since it began monitoring pension fund surpluses and deficits in 2002.

While listed equity prices fell in March, surpluses still rose by over a third because the increase in corporate bond yields was strong enough to counter the equity losses, said Chinu Patel, senior consultant at Watson Wyatt.

"The credit crunch continued to increase companies' borrowing costs during March, thereby reducing the measured value of pension liabilities. This is the principal reason why surpluses increased from £29.2bn to £40.4bn, despite this being a month in which pension assets were clearly badly affected by falls in equities. It underlines the volatility of pensions accounting numbers."

This is also a significant gain on last year's performance, because as recently as February 2007, FTSE 100 companies had a combined pension deficit of over £45bn.