New figures show that Irish managed pension funds experienced a positive return of 2.6% in March - the first positive monthly return in the last seven months.

However, consulting group Hewitt Associates said that pension funds during the first three months of the year are still showing negative returns of 5.3%.

Hewitt said the positive returns in March are due to the rally on global stock markets in the second half of the month.

The positive performance will come as a great relief to Irish pension funds who have suffered greatly from the market turmoil of the last 18 months.

'Although it is too early to tell whether the current rally will continue, one would hope that we will not return to the record lows seen by the equity markets in recent times,' commented Betty O'Reilly, Senior Investment Consultant at Hewitt Associates.