Medical cost funding, in particular, is continuing to come up short, the newspaper said. In the beginning of 2006, the post-retirement plans and healthcare obligations of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index were severely underfunded.
S&P and many other pension trackers are predicting that rising interest rates will quell much of the pension-plan shortfall, but funds for "other post-employment benefits" (OPEB) will be much less than projected outlays, the Journal said.
"OPEB is in very poor shape," says Howard Silverblatt, S&P's senior index analyst in New York and author of the research report. "The pension situation is much more manageable because there are more assets set aside to cover those liabilities."