Do Flat Premums in Q2 Signal Soft Market Is Near Bottom?

August 11, 2011

Renewal premiums in the second quarter were essentially flat, suggesting that the soft commercial lines insurance market may be close to its bottom, risk managers report.

Premiums for three of four lines tracked by the RIMS Benchmark Survey —general liability, property and workers’ compensation — all fell by less than 1 percent on average, while directors and officers liability policies renewed 4.5 percent lower.

The survey, which is administered by Advisen Ltd., tracks changes in policy renewals as reported by risk managers.

“Pricing has been fairly stable in three of the last four quarters, but it is too early to declare the soft market over,” said Dave Bradford, Advisen executive vice president and editor-in-chief of the survey. “Rates may have stabilized for now, but barring major catastrophe losses, there are few signs of materially higher premiums on the horizon. The commercial property/ casualty insurance market remains well capitalized, and the current sluggish economy could make it difficult for underwriters to push through rate increases.”

Record-shattering tornado losses in the U.S., combined with losses from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, floods in Australia and earthquakes in New Zealand, battered insurance carrier results through the first half of 2011, but the impact has not been sufficient to trigger widespread premium increases outside some of the affected areas.

Additional catastrophes, however, could spark higher rates for property and possibly other lines of insurance, according to Advisen.

“Insurance buyers continue to benefit from a competitive insurance market, but the situation could change quickly,” said Frederick Savage of the Risk and Insurance Management Society board of directors. “Hurricane season is underway in the U.S. and forecasters continue to call for above-average activity. One or two very large storms on top of the catastrophe losses in the first half of the year could be enough to spark higher premiums, at least for property risks.”

Topics Catastrophe Market Pricing Trends

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