SWITZERLAND - The funding levels of Swiss pension funds have remained stable in the first quarter of 2011 compared with year-end levels, according to Swisscanto's Pensionskassen-Monitor.

The average public pension fund's funding level stood at 91.8% at the end of March, unchanged from December 2010.

The average funding level of private pension funds also stagnated at 104.6% at the end of March.

Overall, pension funds averaged a return of 0.6% and a funding level of 98.6% in the first quarter, slightly up from 98.5% at the end of December, but remaining on similar levels compared with the end of 2009.

Swisscanto said the pension funds had done well to hold onto those levels considering uncertainties such as government debt in the euro-zone, the strong developments of the Swiss franc, unrest in North Africa with higher energy prices and the nuclear fallout in Japan.

However, 15% of private and 60% of public pension funds remained underfunded as at 31 March.

Swisscanto Pensionskassen-Monitor is based on data taken from Complementa's 'Risiko Check-up' and Swisscanto's survey.

Its foundations are the figures of 420 pension funds at the end of 2009. The current estimates are based on projections related to market developments and investment strategies selected in 2010.

In other news, Credit Suisse has issued preliminary figures for its Pensionskassenindex for the first quarter, showing an average  0.81% return for Swiss pension funds, with January (0.6%) and February (0.8%) having contributed positively to returns and March (-0.6%) negatively.

Credit Suisse said the figures showed foreign equities (0.4%), real estate (0.3%), alternative investments (0.14%) and foreign currency bonds (0.1%) contributed to the positive return in particular.

The bank also noted that the funds further reduced their exposure to bonds - both Swiss francs and other currencies - while increasing investments in alternatives and equities.