Charlottesville, VA (Vocus/PRWEB) – An SNL Financial analysis of preliminary fourth-quarter statutory insurance data finds signs that the prolonged P&C soft market is hardening, contrary to earlier reports from other insurance data providers. U.S. property and casualty industry premiums grew at their fastest rate since 2006 in response to underwriting losses and unfavorable reserve development. This means buyers could see higher premiums and rate increases as 2011 continues, particularly in business lines that directly impact consumers like personal auto and homeowners insurance.
“Commercial lines insurers have been stuck in a prolonged soft market, but we are seeing an end to many of the factors enabling this trend. After analyzing data for 95% of the industry, SNL Financial found that the U.S. insurance industry’s negative returns on underwriting continue to deepen and the short-term boost from over-reserving for prior years is running out,” explained Jon Wright, SNL Financial’s Director of Insurance. “Overall premium growth continued to recover in 2010, and our findings point to further continuance of that trend in 2011.”
Based on key market indicators within the U.S. P&C industry, direct premiums written increased 2.9% and net premiums increased 4.0% from the same period in 2009. Underwriting losses totaled $2.4 billion, of which $750 million came from additions to reserves for prior years.
“We continue to see deterioration in profits for the P&C industry,” noted Tim Zawacki, Senior Industry Analyst at SNL Financial. “This is at least partially due to industry giant AIG, which continues to make headlines as it continues to pay for inadequate reserving over the last several years. What remains to be seen is whether AIG is acting first, and this trend is symptomatic of the entire commercial lines industry, or an isolated event.”
A combination of personal and commercial lines writers recorded strong underwriting profits in 2010. Bank of America Corp.’s Balboa Insurance Co., the force-placed homeowners’ writer in the midst of a sale to QBE Insurance Group Ltd., generated a net underwriting gain of $937 million.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. units Government Employees Insurance Co. and National Indemnity Co. posted underwriting profits of $699 million and $650 million, respectively, as shown in SNL Financial’s Top 5 U.S. Insurers by Underwriting Profit 2010Y chart.
Top 5 U.S. Insurers by Underwriting Profit 2010Y
Company — Group — 2010Y Net Underwriting Profit ($000)
Balboa Insurance Company — Bank of America — 936,741
Government Employees Insurance Company — Berkshire Hathaway — 699,201
National Indemnity Company — Berkshire Hathaway — 650,094
United Services Automobile Association — USAA — 564,095
Federal Insurance Company — Chubb — 563,405