Swiss Re predicts that 2011 will rank as the most expensive year ever for the insurance industry. The insurer's sigma team estimates total insured losses for the global industry from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters will reach $108 billion. This is more than double 2010’s losses, which were $48 billion.

The insurer attributes the high numbers to earthquake-insured claims, which were $47 billion, the highest ever recorded. Japan’s earthquake alone cost the insurance industry an estimated $35 billion. However, because of how under-insured Japan was at the time, the total economic losses—estimated to be at least $210 billion—are likely to be much higher once damage to nuclear facilities and disruption to worldwide supply chains are included. The February earthquake in New Zealand caused economic losses of $15 billion. However, Swiss Re said, thanks to high earthquake insurance penetration rates, particularly in residential properties, the insurance industry will pay most of the losses.

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