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US P&C industry posts largest-on-record Q1 statutory underwriting loss


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US P&C industry posts largest-on-record Q1 statutory underwriting loss

Dismal personal lines results led the US property and casualty industry to post its first and largest net underwriting loss in a first quarter in 12 years, an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of newly released statutory financial statements revealed.

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➤ We preliminarily calculate that US property and casualty (P&C) insurers for which data was available May 19 generated a combined ratio of 102.2% on a net underwriting loss of $7.34 billion in the first quarter. That compares with a combined ratio of 96.1% and a net underwriting profit of $4.27 billion for the same entities in the year-earlier period. The industry's first-quarter combined ratios were as high or higher in 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2011, peaking at 106.0% in the opening three months of 2001. The largest net underwriting loss in a first quarter from 2001 through 2022, unadjusted for inflation, had been $5.63 billion in the first quarter of 2001.

➤ An unusually active period for natural catastrophes in combination with ongoing inflation-related challenges in the private auto business led the industry to produce its highest personal lines direct incurred loss ratio for a first quarter on record at 74.8%. The previous first-quarter high for the period from 2001 through 2022 had been 70.2% in 2001. In the 88 previous quarters for which data is available, including all periods of the calendar year, the personal lines direct incurred loss ratio had only exceeded 74.8% on seven occasions. Three of them were in the past seven quarters, reflecting similar underlying business dynamics that led to the outsized result for the first quarter of 2023.

➤ Carriers continue to produce robust top-line growth as they attempt to catch up to fast-rising private auto loss costs through rate increases, take in additional premium to reflect rising residential property replacement costs, and benefit from resilient pricing in certain key commercial lines of business. Net premiums written grew 9.6%, marking the seventh year-over-year increase of more than 8% in the past eight quarters.

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Losses spike

With direct incurred loss ratios in the homeowners and private auto lines rising to 71.9% and 76.1% in the first quarter from 53.9% and 72.4% in the year-earlier period, personal lines carriers were responsible for most of the industry's red ink from an underwriting profitability standpoint. The private auto loss ratio showed sequential improvement from the last three quarters of 2022. The homeowners result, meanwhile, was 33 basis points above the industry's previous worst result for a first quarter from 2001 through 2022 of 71.6% in 2021.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the No. 1 US personal lines insurer, posted the largest net underwriting loss for an individual P&C entity at $2.87 billion. Results for the company and its entire group of P&C insurers were historically unfavorable.

Amid the pressure on both the homeowners and private auto businesses during the quarter, other personal lines carriers also posted large net underwriting losses, including the primary The Allstate Corp. subsidiary along with Erie Insurance Exchange, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., American Family Mutual Insurance Co. SI, State Farm General Insurance Co., Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., United Services Automobile Association's USAA Casualty Insurance Co., Farmers Insurance Exchange and Kentucky Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. Inc. The latter entity sustained its largest net underwriting loss in any quarter since at least the start of 2001 after a series of severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes, flooding, landslides and mudslides hit Kentucky in early March.

Commercial lines and mortgage insurers and reinsurers fared best among individual entities, with the following five companies posting net underwriting gains of more than $150 million apiece: Factory Mutual Insurance Co., Transatlantic Reinsurance Co., Enact Mortgage Insurance Corp., Radian Group Inc.'s Radian Guaranty Inc., and W. R. Berkley Corp.'s Berkley Insurance Co. Direct incurred loss ratios improved in the other liability and marine lines on a year-over-year basis but increased in the commercial auto and workers' compensation lines.

Across all lines, net incurred losses continued to increase at a rate well in excess of earned premiums. They rose nearly 22.1% in the first quarter while net earned premiums climbed 9.3%. Other underwriting expenses increased 6.9%, several percentage points below the rate of increase in written premiums.

Investment income tumbles

The first-quarter statutory results will show a sharp decline in net investment gains for the P&C industry with net investment income earned and net realized capital gains tumbling 33.8% and 49.5%, respectively. But rather than fallout from the volatility that beset financial markets in March, the declines reflect the nonrecurrence of a series of extraordinary transactions involving certain P&C subsidiaries of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in the first quarter of 2022.

When excluding National Indemnity Co. and Columbia Insurance Co. from the industry totals, net investment income earned would have increased on a year-over-year basis by 30.8% while the reduction in realized gains would have been only 21.5%. S&P Global Market Intelligence's recently released "US Insurance Investments Market Report" includes discussion of the nature and mechanics of those extraordinary transactions.

Another positive development on the investments front in the first-quarter data was a partial reversal of the massively negative net change in unrealized capital gains and losses that the industry sustained in 2022 as rising interest rates put downward pressure on bond prices. Among the individual entities for which first-quarter data is available, the cumulative net change in unrealized capital gains and losses was a positive $37.46 billion as compared with negative values of $24.18 billion in the first quarter of 2022 and $118.93 billion in the full calendar year.

Policyholders' surplus statistics remain subject to group-level adjustments, but we anticipate that this swing, in tandem with modest net income, will lead to a higher tally at March 31 than at year-end 2022.

The industry's 6.4% decline in surplus in 2022 was its largest for a calendar year since 2008.


The industry-level combined ratios referenced in this article represent an aggregation of individual company results filed with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and obtained by S&P Global Market Intelligence as of May 19 unless otherwise noted. While these results will change to some extent as we obtain additional information in the coming weeks, we do not anticipate the movement will be material based on the expect filers for which we have not received results. Quarterly results for New Jersey-domiciled entities are unavailable due to a state statute that deems those filings to be confidential and not subject to public inspection.

Income statement items for the first quarters of 2022 and 2023 are presented on an apples-to-apples basis, including only those individual entities for which March 31, 2023, financials are available, unless otherwise noted. Line of business-level loss ratios for periods prior to the first quarter of 2023 reflect all available filers.

Additionally, a key consideration when reviewing individual company comparisons is the Jan. 1 merger of Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co. into Nationwide Mutual. Nationwide Fire typically reported for more than $1 billion in net premiums written per quarter as a result of its participation in the Nationwide intercompany pool. Nationwide Mutual's first-quarter statutory statement incorporates into its historical results Nationwide Mutual Fire's contributions for the first quarter of 2022.

S&P Global Market Intelligence tentatively expects to post industry aggregates for data points not subject to group-level adjustments on or around May 30.

Important considerations for our combined ratio calculations include the following: 1) the results include policyholder dividends unless otherwise noted and 2) we base expense ratios as the combination of other underwriting expenses and aggregate write-ins for underwriting deductions as a percentage of net premiums earned.