The Treasury's announcement that it borrowed a further £4.3bn last month was unexpected to say the least.
January is traditionally the month in which government collects large amounts of tax - and City economists had expected a surplus of £2.3bn.
Such a surprise prompted a rise in gilt yields to a 15-month high of 4.1pc. The pound also weakened.
Yet, while a further hike in indebtedness raises questions about the state of the UK's public finances - it is undoubtedly good news for pension schemes and those approaching retirement.
Increases in gilt yields should reduce scheme deficits. This is because bond yields are used to help calculate liabilities under FRS17 and IAS19 accounting rules.
It will also reduce the cost of a buyouts and buy-ins - and is additionally likely to improve annuity rates for those in defined contribution schemes.
This is not the only good bit of news for schemes at the moment.
Despite a short-term spike in inflation figures, long-term inflation expectations have actually come down.
This was bad news for pension schemes because it pushed up the costs of de-risking and also made the funding and accounting positions look worse.
But, so far this year, long-term inflation expectations relative to gilt yields have fallen back quite significantly in 2010 - due in part to the suspension of the Bank of England's quantitative easing programme last month.
However, such a fall in long-term inflation expectations will have also made buy-ins, buyouts and individual annuities much better value for money.
While the country is facing up to the prospect of a budget deficit of Greek proportions; pension schemes, sponsoring employers and individuals close to retirement will all have an opportunity to smile.
Jonathan Stapleton is editor of Professional Pensions
E-mail me at: [email protected]
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