The dog days of summer definitely have arrived for the property/casualty market. A day after Conning Research and Consulting released a report stating that mixed insurance premium pricing momentum and modestly deteriorating underwriting results will conspire to keep the P&C market in its current malaise, A.M. Best published a report that dovetails with Conning's assertions.

According to the A.M. Best report, the U.S. property/casualty industry's net income plummeted approximately 87% to $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2009, due to challenging underwriting and investment markets. The year-over-year decline in earnings was principally due to the protracted turmoil in the financial markets, and the related impact on the P&C industry's net investment income and realized capital losses.

The following results are for Q1 2009, year-over-year:

  • Net premiums written fell $4.2 billion, or 3.8%, to $107.6 billion from $111.8 billion
  • The industry recorded an underwriting loss of $0.8 billion, driven by continued rate pressure, lower top-line growth, weather-related losses and the impact of significant losses reported by mortgage and financial guaranty insurers
  • The combined ratio rose to 100.5 from 99.8.
  • The mortgage and financial guaranty segments reported an underwriting loss of $1.9 billion, and posted a combined ratio of 220.8, adding approximately two percentage points to the industry's combined ratio
  • Net investment gains fell $8.7 billion to $4.4 billion, down from $13.1 billion.
  • The personal lines segment's underwriting results deteriorated, with a reported calendar year combined ratio of 100.7, up from 98.4
  • The commercial lines segment's combined ratio improved modestly to 101.2, compared with 102.1
  • The U.S. reinsurance segment posted a healthy combined ratio of 94.3, compared with 92.9
  • The industry's policyholder surplus declined $82.0 billion, or 15.5%, to $447.2 billion for the 12 months ended March 31, 2009
  • The annualized after-tax return on equity fell to 0.2% for the 12 months ended March 31, 2009, down from 1.8% for the 12 months ended March 31, 2008

A.M. Best added that 2009 is shaping up to be another challenging year for the U.S. property/casualty industry, and the unfavorable economic, investment and underwriting environments are expected to continue straining underwriting and operating results throughout the remainder of the year.

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