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Investment Analysts Cautious on Insurers as Pricing Momentum Eases.

Byline: Phil Gusman,

"Caution" is the word of the day when it comes to investment-analyst sentiment regarding the property and casualty industry.

Sterne Agee analysts Dan Farrell and Nitin Chhabra as well as Nomura analysts Clifford Gallant and Matthew Rohrmann point in particular to pricing challenges in the reinsurance sectors as an area of concern. "Reinsurance brokers have all published reports highlighting Jan. 1 pricing weakness, and we remain cautious on the sector," the Nomura analysis says.

The Sterne Agee analysis adds, "Reinsurance pricing and terms are both under pressure given ample capacity and increasing alternative capital in the marketplace."

Sterne Agee notes that property-catastrophe pricing shows the most downward pressure, but the firm adds that "other lines are experiencing competition as well to varying degrees.

Primary insurers are faring better so far, but the analyses agree that it may only be a matter of time before increasing competition takes its toll. A bullet point in the Nomura analysis asks, "U.S. primary--the next domino?" It states that reserve releases, share buybacks and good weather are expected to drive strong profits for 2013's fourth quarter, but cites investor concerns over the growing competition.

Nomura also says personal auto appears to be entering "the early days of a challenging market."

The Sterne Agee analysis says, "Insurance pricing is holding up better currently vs. reinsurance but we believe rate increases will moderate and increasing pressure will gradually emerge in insurance lines through 2014." Capital management, though, "is a silver lining that should continue," according to Sterne Agee.

Nomura says brokers are in for "a mixed bag as pricing softens but the economy improves."

Sterne Agee is a bit more upbeat on this sector, stating, "While pricing could be a headwind, we feel gradual economic improvement will be a greater driver of growth. Additionally, the insurance brokers would benefit from rising interest rates and any emergence of inflation."
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Publication:Property and Casualty 360
Date:Jan 15, 2014
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