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June 20 (Reuters) - (The following statement was released by the rating agency)
In a new Special Report, Fitch Ratings updates its forecast for U.S. property/casualty insurance industry statutory operating performance in 2014 and 2015.
The industry reported its best underwriting results since 2007 with a combined ratio of 96.2% in 2013. This strong underwriting performance sparked a sharp improvement in industry profitability for 2013. Statutory operating earnings surged 80% resulting in an 8.5% operating return on surplus. The net income return on surplus, which includes realized investment gains, was 11.4%.
Industry aggregate policyholders’ surplus grew by 12% in 2013 to a record high of $665 billion. Record earnings combined with all-time high unrealized investment gains driven by favorable equity market performance were the key elements behind this increase.
For 2014, Fitch is forecasting a second consecutive year of underwriting profits with a modest increase in the combined ratio to 97.3%. Core loss ratio improvement from recent renewal premium rate increases are likely to be offset by a reversion of catastrophe related losses toward historical levels and moderation in the level of favorable reserve development. Weaker underwriting profits and flat investment income levels lead to a projected industry return on surplus of 7.4% in 2014.
The latest indications are that levels of renewal rate increases are slowing, reversing a several year trend of meaningful renewal rate increases across most lines of business. Fitch anticipates rates will move toward flat levels in the latter portions of 2014 tied to competition intensifying as market underwriting capacity expands. The industry forecast for 2015 is for a slight underwriting profit and further declines in operating profits.
The full report including the updated forecast for 2014 and 2015 can be found on Fitch Ratings website, ‘www.fitchratings.com’ under the title ‘U.S.
Property/Casualty Industry Statutory Results and Forecast.’
Link to Fitch Ratings’ Report: U.S. Property/Casualty Industry Statutory Results and Forecast (2014 Profit Deterioration Anticipated)