The good news is that pension underfunding should decline to $112 billion in 2004. The bad news is that pension plans will continue to be underfunded in 2004. So says New York-based Standard & Poor's in its Pension Status Report for the S&P 500, released Aug. 11. S&P said for 2003, the overall position of the 362 S&P 500 companies that offer defined benefit pensions improved to $165 billion underfunded compared with $219 billion underfunded at the end of 2002. "Even though pension plans as a group are underfunded, there is no immediate danger to monthly pension benefits for the vast majority of employees," states David Blitzer, managing director at Standard & Poor's. Adds Howard Silverblatt, S&P equity market analyst: "The current situation is an investor concern as they need to assess what the obligations of a company are, where the required funds will come from, and how any shift in expenditures will affect future growth."