When the financial markets aren’t allowed to influence interest rates in accordance with market forces, there are wide-ranging consequences. Here‘s one.
Ford Motor Co expects to spend $5 billion this year shoring up its pension funds, almost as much as the auto maker spent last year building plants, buying equipment and developing new cars.
The nation’s second-largest auto maker is one of a who’s who of US companies pouring cash into pension plans now being battered by record low interest rates. Verizon Communications Inc contributed $1.7 billion to its pension plan in the fourth quarter and—highlighting companies’ sensitivity to this issue—Boeing Co now reports “core earnings” to separate out pension expenses.
Leaving aside the wisdom of defined benefit plans like pensions vs defined contribution plans like 401(k)s, and even assuming that interest rate assumptions underlying pension contributions in normal times are reasonable, this is money that would be better spent on capital plant, product development (both existing and new), hiring more workers, and so on.
Sort of like Ford did last year, but cannot use for this year’s priorities.