While remaining mired in a soft market, U.S. insurers can at least take solace in rising stock prices and valuations.

This trend was reflected in the S&P 500 Insurance Index which began 2010 trading at $167.84 and finished the year at the $188.22. As the aggregate of many of the largest publicly traded insurance companies including Newark, N.J.-based Prudential Financial, Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway and New York-based Metlife Inc., the index is an interesting metric of the industry financial strength as a whole. Yet, some of the underlying characteristics affecting individual valuations are notable in their own light.

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