It's that time of year again-and I don't mean the holidays-when senior executives' eyes begin to glaze over as they digest the year's financial numbers. And for some insurance executives, the endless piles of spreadsheets contain some frightening numbers.For example, U.S. property/casualty carriers' combined net income dropped 32.5% during the first half of 2000, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Furthermore, the industry's consolidated surplus-assets minus liabilities-declined $7.6 billion during the same period. Contributing to the decline in surplus were $9.1 billion in unrealized capital losses and $3.6 billion in "miscellaneous charges against surplus," according to the New York-based Insurance Information Institute.

Now I'm not an accountant, but these statistics are alarming, especially when you consider that the country has not experienced a major catastrophe in 2000-other than Florida's vote-counting for the presidential election (I'll hold that thought for another month). The underwriting result for the first half of the year was the worst for property/casualty insurers since 1994, when the Northridge earthquake struck southern California, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

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