Human Resources
401(k) Index &  Observations Monthly Details: March 2015

401(k) Index & Observations Monthly Details: March 2015

Market Commentary

  • According to the Aon Hewitt 401(k) IndexTM, total transfer activity for the first quarter of 2015 was 0.31%-the lowest quarterly figure since 1998, and approximately half the level of the previous quarter (0.59%). March was another light trading month for participants in defined contribution plans with participants transferring, on average, 0.029% of balances each day during the month. Five days in March experienced above-normal1 trading activity.
  • In March, participants preferred equities slightly over fixed income with 12 out of 21 trading days favoring equity funds. The most popular asset classes for inflows were international, mid U.S. equity, and target-date funds2. The most common classes for outflows were company stock, GIC/stable value, and specialty/sector funds. Target-date funds continued to receive the majority of new contributions into individuals’ accounts.

Asset Classes with Most Trading Inflows

Percent of Inflows Index Dollar Value ($ mil)
International funds 38% $118
Mid U.S. equity funds 16% $50
Target-date funds 15% $48


Asset Classes with Most Trading Outflows

Percent of Outflows Index Dollar Value ($ mil)
Company stock 30% $93
GIC/stable value funds 30% $93
Specialty/sector funds 17% $53


Asset Classes with Most Contributions

Percent of Contributions Index Dollar Value ($ mil)
Target-date funds 36% $498
Large US equity funds 20% $274


  • Combining contributions, trades, and market activity participants’ overall allocation to equities saw little fluctuation from February (66.3% in March from 66.5% in February). Future contributions to equities increased to 67.4% in March, compared to 66.4% in February. Capital market returns were mixed during March 2015:
    • U.S. Large-Cap equities (represented by the S&P 500 Index) and International equities (represented by the MSCI ACWI ex-US Index) fell
    • U.S. Small-Cap equities (represented by the Russell 2000 Index) and U.S. Fixed Income (represented by the Barclays Aggregate Index) delivered positive returns. Most major indices delivered positive returns during the first quarter of 2015.

The following tables show Aon Hewitt 401(k) IndexTM statistics and the returns of major market indices for periods ending March 31, 2015.


Index Statistics

March 2015 Q1 2015 YTD
Total Transfers as Percent of Starting Balance 0.18% 0.31% 0.31%
Number of Fixed Income Days 9 (43%) 25 (42%) 25 (42%)
Number of Equity Days 12 (57%) 34 (58%) 34 (58%)
Number of Above-Normal1 Days 5 12 12


Indices Returns

March 2015 Q1 2015 YTD
Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index 0.5% 1.6% 1.6%
S&P 500 -1.6% 1.0% 1.0%
Russell 2000 Index 1.7% 4.3% 4.3%
MSCI All Country World ex-U.S. Index (net) -1.6% 3.5% 3.5%

1 A “normal” level of relative transfer activity is when the net daily movement of participants’ balances, as a percent of total 401(k) balances within the Aon Hewitt 401(k) IndexTM equals between 0.3 times and 1.5 times the average daily net activity of the preceding 12 months. A “high” relative transfer activity day is when the net daily movement exceeds two times the average daily net activity. A “moderate” relative transfer activity day is when the net daily movement is between 1.5 and 2 times the average daily net activity of the preceding 12 months.
2 Target-date funds also include the amounts in target-risk funds for companies who do not have target-date funds. The amount in the target-risk funds is less than 10% of the total.