(Bloomberg) -- 3M Co. and Deere & Co. are among U.S. employers seeing pension costs drop from a $76 billion peak, freeing up cash to spend or return to investors, as the Federal Reserve’s pullback on bond buying boosts interest rates.

The drain on company cash is easing after rising rates and surging stock prices helped increase the pension funding levels to 93 percent last year for 418 large companies with U.S. plans, from 77 percent a year earlier, consultant Towers Watson said yesterday in a report.

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