New York - The property/casualty insurance industry will report an increase in its capital base and an overall profitable performance in 2005, enabling it to meet the insurance needs of the growing U.S. economy, according to preliminary financial results compiled by the Insurance Services Office (ISO) and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). Insurers achieved these results despite catastrophe losses totaling a record $57.7 billion before reinsurance recoveries, according to ISO's Property Claims Services unit."A financially strong, stable and secure insurance industry benefits consumers and communities devastated by disaster," says Dr. Robert Hartwig, senior vice president and chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). "U.S. insurers entered 2005 well capitalized and well prepared for major catastrophic losses, having implemented effective risk management strategies which helped insurers better manage losses and control costs. Additionally, insurers' investments benefited from higher interest rates and--like other American industries--a resurgent economy in 2005. Last year's financial performance is also a testament to the efficiency of the global market for sharing and spreading risk, principally through the use of reinsurance, which is insurance purchased by insurance companies. That being said, the $43.2 billion earned by property/casualty insurers in 2005 translates into a 10.1% return on surplus or net worth, well below the 14.9% return on equity earned by the Fortune 500 group of companies."

However, experts caution that last year's catastrophe losses have had a significant effect on reinsurers and reinsurance markets, an impact that is likely to be felt by primary insurers, especially for catastrophe coverage in regions prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. "One major broker reported last March that at least five Bermuda reinsurers had either stopped underwriting or re-oriented their business since Hurricane Katrina," says Gregory Heidrich, senior vice president, policy development and research for PCI.

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