NEW YORK--Reserve deficiencies, which have plagued  property-casualty insurers in recent years, improved dramatically in 2003, according to a new study by Conning Research & Consulting.

The Conning Research study, "Property-Casualty Loss Reserves: As Good as It Gets?" estimates P-C reserve deficiency improved nearly $17 billion from $24.8 billion in 2002 to $8 billion in 2003. "Thanks to stronger pricing and resulting premium growth in the P-C industry, reserves have kept pace with losses and older years have been strengthened," said Geri Riley, analyst at Conning Research & Consulting.

"The improvement in the reserve position for the property-casualty industry has been rapid and all-encompassing, leaving no line of business unaffected. Yet while there has been significant improvement, additional reserve strengthening is still needed."

Conning's annual study on the reserve position of the P-C industry is based on extensive analysis of Schedule P of the annual statement, which includes ten years of historical data and analysis of paid and incurred loss developments for the casualty and liability lines. Asbestos, reinsurance, property, financial and combined specialty lines are not included in the new study, primarily due to lack of availability of historical and complete reserve data within schedule P.

"Our study confirms that through 2003 the property-casualty industry has made significant progress in addressing its reserve deficiencies," said Stephan Christiansen, research director at Conning Research & Consulting. "Yet with competition accelerating in the second half of 2004, there are indications of reductions in reserve strengthening and premium rate declines in the face of loss growth. When rates do not keep pace with loss growth, there is certainly reason for concern about the industry's loss reserve position going forward."


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