After a tumultuous three-year period in which insurers' credit ratings were battered and beaten, credit analysts say the current environment is stabilizing, due primarily to price strengthening in 2003."The environment is improving, but risks are still high, especially with workers' compensation, asbestos and silica," says Kathleen Corbet, president of Standard & Poor's Corp., who spoke at S&P's annual insurance conference in New York. "The life sector is rebounding with the stable stock market, but there is concern about rising interest rates."

For commercial insurers, S&P believes the number of ratings upgrades and downgrades will be equal, and the ratings agency has revised its negative outlook to stable for that sector, says Robert Partridge, managing director, S&P.

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