TORONTO — A DBRS review of 451 defined-benefit pension plans in Canada and the United States finds the gap between their assets and obligations has widened significantly over the past year.DBRS says several factors have contributed to the revised outlook, including continuing low interest rates.The review found the funding deficit at the pension plans ballooned to an unprecedented $389 billion in 2011.[np-related /]DBRS says that more than two-thirds of the plans it reviewed this past year were underfunded by a significant margin.It says the funding gap has forced employers and their employees to increase contributions and warns this can put companies with defined benefit plans at a competitive disadvantage.

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