Posted on 11 Feb 2010
According to an analysis released by A.M. Best, the U.S. property-casualty insurance industry posted net premium written losses for the third year in a row.
Despite the record losses, 2009 marked a big improvement over the prior year, with industry income after taxes increasing tenfold, A.M. Best reports.
Net premium written fell about 4.2% last year, to $426.8 billion, driven by a prolonged period of competitive market conditions, excess capacity, leakage of premium to non-U.S. companies, alternative forms of risk transfer and the weak economy, A.M. Best said.
Improved underwriting results and the continued recovery of the financial markets fueled the industry’s $30.6 billion in net income, after taxes, for last year, compared to 2008, the ratings service said. In 2008, a year filled with catastrophes, the net income was $3.8 billion after taxes.
A quiet hurricane season spurred better underwriting results, which were significantly lower in the mortgage and financial guaranty segments, according to the ratings service. Favorable prior-year loss-reserve developments further boosted results.
Catastrophe-related losses are estimated at $14 billion for 2009, down from an estimated $23 billion paid in 2008, as the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season was the quietest in more than a decade.
The sector will show about $12.5 billion of favorable loss-reserve development on prior accident years for 2009, further eroding the industry’s overall loss-reserve position.
Overall industry net investment gains increased about 19%, to $39.5 billion, in 2009, A.M. Best reported.
Policyholders’ surplus is estimated to rebound, rising 9.4% to $519.3 billion in 2009, as insurers’ balance sheets recovered significantly in the wake of the global financial crisis, the ratings service said.
A.M. Best said it believes overall industry balance sheet strength and liquidity will remain adequate this year, leading it to keep the sector’s “stable” outlook for all three segments—personal lines, commercial lines and the U.S. reinsurance market.