Preliminary third-quarter statutory insurance data released by SNL Financial finds that the U.S. property/casualty industry continued to experience modest growth in premiums written while essentially breaking even on underwriting with a calendar year combined ratio of approximately 100%.

Sizable after-tax realized capital gains offset net underwriting losses in three of the previous four quarters in the property/casualty industry, reports SNL. Predicated on an initial review of its statutory insurance data for the third quarter, SNL suggests a continuation of that trend.

Based on data for more than 76% of the industry, direct premiums written increased 1.3% to $101.0 billion and net premiums written were up 2.2% to $88.7 billion from the same period in 2009. According to SNL, this second consecutive quarter of premium growth is a positive indicator, given that direct premiums written had previously declined on a year-over-year basis for six consecutive quarters and net premiums written had declined for eight straight quarters.

“The personal lines market continues to strengthen,” said Jon Wright, director of insurance at SNL. “Higher loss costs and accident year loss ratios resulted in negative returns for these lines in 2009. The commercial lines market remains very competitive with most lines of business reporting declining premiums. However, workers compensation is one exception, reporting modest gains.”

The pace of reserve releases slowed in the third quarter relative to prior periods, but favorable reserve development continued to subsidize the industry’s operating results. Favorable development totaled $10.1 billion year-to-date through September 30, up from $8.2 billion for the year-to-date as of June 30.


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