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US Life And Annuity Industry To See Higher Premium Growth

C&I Loan Growth Pops In Q2, But Tax Reform’s Role Remains Unclear

Banking

StreetTalk Episode 27: Looking For The Cream Of The Crop In Bank Stocks

Loans And Deposits Continue Uphill Climb At US Banks In June

Peeking Into The Future Without Staring At A Crystal Ball: Brexit Scenarios And Their Impact On Energy Firms’ Credit Risk

Insurance
US Life And Annuity Industry To See Higher Premium Growth

Highlights

S&P Global Market Intelligence's 2018 US Life and Annuity Insurance Market Report projects an acceleration of growth in direct premiums and considerations in 2018 as the industry is poised to benefit from the removal of a key regulatory overhang.

Aug. 09 2018 — Regulatory, legislative and judicial changes will impact growth in direct premiums and considerations in 2018, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence's 2018 US Life and Annuity Insurance Market Report.

Sluggish sales of individual annuities in 2017 resulting from uncertainty regarding the implementation of the US Labor Department's fiduciary rule and a March ruling by a federal appellate court set the stage for favorable top-line comparisons in 2018 and 2019. Net premiums and considerations in several lines will show the effects of at least one US-domiciled carrier's reaction to the Base-Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax, or BEAT, component of the December 2017 federal tax reform.

S&P Global Market Intelligence projects overall growth in direct life, annuity and accident and health premiums and considerations of 4.3% in 2018, up from expansion of 1.3% in 2017. By product segment, we project that ordinary individual and group annuities will see combined growth in direct premiums and considerations of 4.2% in 2018, compared to a decline of 3.1% in 2017. This reflects increased optimism for sales following what had been, in some cases, historically low results.

Historical results are based on the aggregation of data at the line-of-business level reported by US-domiciled entities that file life statement blanks with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The analysis excludes select entities that generated the vast majority of their business from outside of the United States.

Continued strong growth in direct accident and health premiums written by life statement filers also contributes to the overall outlook for the sector's expansion, offsetting a normalization in growth rates for the life insurance business. S&P Global Market Intelligence projects growth of 6.9% in direct accident and health premiums and 1.9% in direct ordinary and group life premiums as compared with rates of expansion of 6.7% and 4.5%, respectively, in 2017.

Nowhere to go but up

The LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute forecast growth of between 5% and 10% in total annuity sales in 2018 and up to 5% in 2019. Its 2018 outlook assumes higher sales of a range of products, including indexed annuities and annual variable annuities.

Individual annuity sales as measured by a LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute survey declined by 8%, overall, in 2017, with weakness in trends among both variable and fixed products. Direct first-year and single premiums and considerations in the ordinary individual annuity business as reported on annual statutory statements fell by 9.5% in 2017 — the largest reduction in that measure of growth in at least the past 10 years.

Though direct ordinary individual business volume grew less than 0.6% in the first quarter of 2018, the expansion was noteworthy in that it represented the first time in two years that premiums and considerations did not decline. Four times during that eight-quarter stretch, direct premiums and considerations fell by double-digit percentages.

A split March decision by the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals effectively dealt a death blow to the Labor Department's fiduciary rule, months after President Donald Trump's administration signaled that it would not actively enforce certain key provisions. The industry had been particularly opposed to the rule's best-interests contract exemption that conferred a private right of legal action related to commission-based products.

While certain states have indicated an interest in reviving elements of the rule and the SEC has set out to draft its own best-interests regulation, the industry has taken some comfort that the federal agency will pursue a more collaborative approach to rulemaking in seeking to preserve customer access to a range of retirement savings products and services.

To the extent regulatory uncertainty remains, the anemic sales trends of mid-2017 offer easy comparisons from which the industry should show significant expansion.

Other lines of business in which 2017 direct premiums and considerations provide either easy or challenging comparisons include group life and other accident and health. In group life, the 2017 results of Zurich American Life Insurance Co. and Nationwide Life Insurance Co. were significantly elevated by bank-owned or corporate-owned life insurance transactions. Group life direct premiums increased by 9.4% during the year after they fell by 3.6% in 2016.

In the other accident and health line, meanwhile, two UnitedHealth Group Inc. subsidiaries exited significant portions of their individual health businesses at the start of 2017. Direct other accident-and-health premiums increased by less than 0.2% on an industrywide basis in 2017, but would have expanded by 3.7% when excluding those subsidiaries' results.

Net noise

Growth in net premiums and considerations is subject to considerably more uncertainty given the extent to which one-off affiliated and unaffiliated reinsurance transactions may take business into or out of the scope of US statutory data. Year-over-year changes in net premiums and considerations have ranged from a decline of 8.9% to an increase of nearly 15.9% in the last five years. The 2017 decline was just 0.3% across life, annuity and health business lines despite a series of multibillion-dollar recaptures and cessions.

The combination of Hannover Life Reassurance Co. of America's reaction to the BEAT and the reinsurance of legacy business by life units of American International Group Inc. has already created volatility in the industry's assumed and ceded premiums in 2018. Hannover Life restructured certain of its retrocession agreements to avoid what it characterized as the "severe surplus strain" that would have resulted from its transactions with foreign affiliates through the new tax. And a new Bermuda affiliate assumed the AIG legacy business, taking it outside of the scope of US statutory data, as the group reported ceded premiums of $31.93 billion for the first quarter and total net premiums of a negative $27.36 billion in the life, annuity and accident and health lines.

Given the prospects for other large life groups to use reinsurance, M&A or some combination of the two to address their legacy exposures, net premium trends are likely to remain a moving target and the source of considerable volatility in the industry's future results.

S&P Global Market Intelligence client? Click here to login and read the full 2018 US Life and Annuity Insurance Market Report.

The projections represent the product of a sum-of-the-parts analysis of line-of-business-level results for private carriers in the US life, annuity and health industry modeled largely on Exhibits 1 and 2 to annual statutory statements. While S&P Global Market Intelligence does not project results for individual carriers or life groups, certain significant company-specific activities help inform the line-of-business level outlook. In addition, the outlook attempts to exclude the impact of select one-off events that involved the on-shoring or offshoring of business to such an extent that it dramatically impacted industry level financials on a historical basis. Macroeconomic inputs reflect consensus estimates compiled by The Wall Street Journal and the outlook published by the Congressional Budget Office in January. The outlook is subject to change periodically and as events warrant.

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Banking & Financial Services
C&I Loan Growth Pops In Q2, But Tax Reform’s Role Remains Unclear

Jul. 31 2018 — Business loan growth popped in the second quarter, but bankers are hesitant to attribute the jump to tax reform or a broader turnaround in business spending.

The year-over-year increase in commercial-and-industrial loans increased to more than 5% for all banks in June, the highest figure in more than a year, according to Federal Reserve data. Smaller U.S. banks — defined by the Fed as those outside the 25 largest banks — posted double-digit growth for all three months of the second quarter.

Those numbers were artificially inflated by banks' acquisition of $24.9 billion of C&I loans from nonbanks. Accounting for those one-time acquisitions, organic C&I loan growth for smaller banks was still robust at 7% in June.

Ever since Republicans passed tax reform at the end of 2017, business optimism has been high and bankers have been hopeful the sentiment will trigger a rebound in business loan growth. C&I loan growth was less than 1% when tax reform passed.

Though C&I loan growth enjoyed a significant bounce in the second quarter, several bankers were not declaring victory. Numerous bank executives attributed the jump to an increase in merger-and-acquisition activity, not increased business spending.

M&T Bank Corp. said M&A activity was hurting its average loan growth, which declined by less than 1% on a quarter-over-quarter basis. The bank's CFO said businesses are selling significant assets and using the proceeds to pay down their loans.

One bank did say tax reform was boosting loan growth. SunTrust Banks Inc. reported an increase in the second quarter for its average performing loans figure, a turnaround from the first quarter when the figure declined on a linked-quarter basis.

"I think we are starting to see some of that [benefit from tax stimulus]," said Chairman and CEO William Rogers Jr. in the bank's earnings call.

But Rogers appeared to be in the minority. Several bankers said it was too early to tell whether tax reform was playing much of a role in the C&I loan growth. JPMorgan Chase & Co. reported a 3% quarter-over-quarter increase in its C&I loans in the second quarter and attributed the gain to M&A financing, not tax reform.

"We've yet to see the full effect of tax reform flow through into profitability and free cash flow," Lake said during the bank's earnings call.

Some bankers, including JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, pointed to brewing trade wars as potential headwinds to loan growth.

Tariffs and trade-related issues are "probably the primary concern that we're hearing from customers right now," said Comerica Inc. President Curt Farmer.

Jeff Rulis, an analyst with D.A. Davidson, said he was not even sure the second-quarter C&I loan growth figures represented a notable change.

"I'm not convinced we're seeing a turnaround or significant pick-up. You have to take into account seasonal pick-up, and the first calendar quarter is generally slow," he said.

There is an argument that tax reform might actually be dampening loan growth. Rulis attributed high payoffs to the mixed results across the sector with some banks reporting robust loan growth by taking market share, contributing to others' more marginal results. Businesses are having an easier time making those payoffs thanks to tax reform, which freed up capital to pay down debt.

"One of the disadvantages of tax reform is you've both lowered the corporate tax rate and repatriated assets to the U.S. That's given more liquidity to the borrowers," said Peter Winter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

Year-over-year increases for total loans were up modestly, as weak commercial real estate loan growth moderated the gains from C&I. The 25 largest banks, in particular, reported soft commercial real estate loan growth with year-over-year declines in March, April and May — the first such drops since 2013. Several banks reported an intentional pullback from the sector due to credit quality concerns. Some pointed to nonbank competition as being particularly aggressive on both pricing and deal structure.

"I think banks, for the most part, are showing more credit discipline coming out of the financial crisis," Winter said. "Quite honestly, we're nine years into this recovery, so I think that's a prudent thing to do."

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Listen: StreetTalk Episode 27: Looking For The Cream Of The Crop In Bank Stocks

Jul. 30 2018 — Joe Fenech, head of equity research at Hovde Group, discussed current bank stock valuations, the growing importance of deposits in valuing franchises and the market's increased skepticism toward M&A, including transactions that appear favorable for the buyer.

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Banking & Financial Services
Loans And Deposits Continue Uphill Climb At US Banks In June

Jul. 26 2018 — Average total loans and leases at U.S. commercial banks increased by $44.10 billion to $9.347 trillion in June, according to the Federal Reserve's July 13 H.8 report.

Loan growth was driven primarily by a $19.8 billion increase in commercial and industrial, a $9.4 billion jump in real estate and an $8.3 billion increase in commercial real estate.

Average loans and leases at large commercial banks increased $18.7 billion month over month, while average loans and leases at small commercial banks were up $21.7 billion. Loans and leases at foreign-related institutions increased by $3.4 billion.

Meanwhile, average total deposits at U.S. commercial banks increased by $56.4 billion in June, compared to a $35.4 billion increase in May. Total deposits were up $448.4 billion from June 2017.

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Credit Analysis
Peeking Into The Future Without Staring At A Crystal Ball: Brexit Scenarios And Their Impact On Energy Firms’ Credit Risk

Jul. 24 2018 — After so many years of living and working in London, two years ago I applied for, and was finally granted, British citizenship. Imagine my surprise when, a few weeks later, the UK European Union referendum took place and the majority of voters opted for Brexit!

As a dual national, both European and British, I feel twice the pain of an uncertain future and sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball.

While it is hard to predict how the whole separation process will pan out, S&P Global Market Intelligence offers a new statistical model that allows users to understand how firms’ credit risk on either side of the ocean may change under multiple exit scenarios. The Credit Analytics Macro-scenario model covers the United States, Canada and European Union countries plus the United Kingdom (EU27+1). In addition, the model can be run via the S&P Global Ratings’ Economists macro-economic multi-year forecasts, tailored for this specific model and updated on a quarterly basis.1

Figure 1 shows the Economists’ forecasts of the inputs used in our statistical model for EU27+1, for year-end 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence (as of June 2018). For illustrative purposes only. L/S ECB Interest rate spread is the spread between long-term and short-term ECB interest rates. Y-Axis is % of; GDP Growth, Stoxx50 Growth, Interest Rate Spread or FTSE100 Growth, depending on the correlating symbol as described in the key.

The expectation is for economic growth to slow-down in the EU27+1. This will be accompanied by progressive monetary policy tightening and a volatile performance of the stock market index growth. This view is aligned with the baseline scenario included in the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the Bank of England (BoE) 2018 stress testing exercise that “[…] reflects the average of a range of possible outcomes from the UK’s trading relationship with the EU”.2

Figure 2 shows the evolution of the median credit score of Energy sector (left panel) and Utility sector (right panel) large-revenue companies in EU27+1, obtained by running the economists’ forecasts via the Macro-scenario model.3 The median score for 2017 is generated via S&P Global Market Intelligence’s CreditModelTM 2.6 Corporates, a statistical model that uses company financials and is trained on credit ratings from S&P Global Ratings.4 The model offers an automated solution to assess the credit risk of numerous counterparties, globally. The scores are mapped to a numerical scale where, for instance, bb- (left panel, left scale) is mapped to 13.0; a deterioration by 1 notch corresponds to an increase of one integer on the numerical scales.

Figure 2: Evolution of the median credit score of Energy and Utility sector companies in EU27+1, based on S&P Global Economists’ macro-economic forecasts run via the Macro-scenario model.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence (as of June 2018). For illustrative purposes only.

Starting from 2017, we see a higher level of credit risk in the UK (red line) than in EU27 (blue line); in subsequent years, the median credit risk increases on both sides of the Channel but the “risk fork” between the UK and EU27 tends to widen up at the expenses of the UK, for both sectors.5

Despite the fact that the median credit score may not change sizably between 2017 and 2020, remaining below half a notch overall in all cases, it is worth keeping in mind that the probability of default (PD) associated with a credit score changes in line with the economic cycle, and thus increases (decreases) during periods of contraction (expansion).

In our model, we account for this effect by first mapping the credit score output to a long-run average PD; next we scale it via a “Credit Cycle Adjustment” (CCA) that looks at the ratio between the previous year and the long-run average default rate historically experienced in S&P Global Ratings’ rated universe.6 If we adjust the long-run average PD via the CCA, we can easily identify potential build-up of default risk pockets in different countries within the EU27+1 as time evolves, as shown in the animations within Figure 3. Green refers to a lower PD than 2017, orange refers to a higher PD than 2017, and red refers to a PD breaching a pre-defined threshold (4.5% for Energy Sector and 0.3% for Utilities sector).7

Figure 3: Potential pockets of default risk in Energy and Utility sector companies in EU27+1, based on S&P Global Economists’ forecast.

Energy Sector Utility Sector
Default Risk in Energy map Default Risk in Utilities map

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence (as of June 2018). For illustrative purposes only. Green refers to a lower PD than 2017, orange refers to a higher PD than 2017, and red refers to a PD breaching a pre-defined threshold (4.5% for Energy Sector and 0.3% for Utilities sector).

With the Macro-scenario model, we aimed for a user friendly model, and took into account the strong economic ties within EU27+1, the existence of a common market and the circulation of a shared currency in the majority of the EU countries, in order to select a parsimonious yet statistically significant set of inputs (just imagine otherwise forecasting multiple macro-economic scenarios for 28 individual countries, over multiple years).8

Readers may wonder how the model differentiates the evolution of credit risk by country if it uses a limited set of aggregate macro-economic factors (e.g. EU28 GDP growth, etc.) across EU27+1. Nine separate sub-models were actually optimized, based on economic commonalities and historical evolution of the S&P Global Ratings transitions in those countries, to account for the existence of different EU “sub-regional” economies (for instance Nordic countries as opposed to Eastern European countries). For the UK, we went one step further, by explicitly including a market indicator, the FTSE100, as a precautionary measure given a potential “full decoupling” of EU27 and UK economies in the near future.

Well, so far so good, at least in the case of a “soft” Brexit! But what if we end up with a “hard” Brexit?

The EBA and the BoE 2018 stress testing exercise include a stressed scenario that “[…] encompasses a wide range of economic risks that could be associated with {hard} Brexit”.9 The scenario corresponds to a prolonged recessionary period, with negative GDP growth for several years and a generalized collapse of the stock markets, similar to what happened during the 2008 global recession. Unsurprisingly, the median credit score output by our macro-scenario model companies significantly deteriorates for both Energy and Utility sector. Figure 4 shows the build-up of potential default risk pockets and their evolution over time, under stressed economic conditions, depicting a bleak view over the length of time needed for a recovery of these sectors.10

Figure 4: Potential pockets of default risk in Energy and Utility sector companies in EU27+1, based on EBA’s and BoE’s 2018 stressed scenario.

Energy Sector Utility Sector
Default Risk in Energy map Default Risk in Utilities map

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence (as of June 2018). For illustrative purposes only. Green refers to a lower PD than 2017, orange refers to a higher PD than 2017, and red refers to a PD breaching a pre-defined threshold (4.5% for Energy Sector and 0.3% for Utilities sector).

I do not have yet a crystal ball to predict the future, e.g. whether petrol will cost more or less, or whether I will be paying higher utility bills in the UK as opposed to (the rest of) the European Union, but S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Macro-Scenario allows gauging potential credit risk changes in individual countries, under a soft or a hard Brexit scenario. More in general, the Macro-Scenario model offers a quick, scalable and automated way to assess credit risk transitions under multiple scenarios, thus equipping risk managers at financial and non-financial corporations with a tool that enables them to make decisions with conviction.

Notes

1 The macro-economic forecasts will become available on the S&P Capital IQ platform from 2018Q4. S&P Global Ratings does not contribute to or participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

2 Source: “Stress Testing Exercise 2018” available at http://www.eba.europa.eu/risk-analysis-and-data/eu-wide-stress-testing/2018. The baseline scenario is the consensus estimate among EU27+1 Central Banks.

3 The results of this analysis depend on the portfolio composition. In addition, other industry sectors may react differently from the Energy and Utility sectors.

4 S&P Global Ratings does not contribute to or participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Lowercase nomenclature is used to differentiate S&P Global Market Intelligence credit scores from the credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings.

5 The 2017 median score for the Utility sector is better than the score for the Energy sector, due to the inherently higher risk of companies in the latter.

6 An optional market-view adjustment is available within the macro-scenario model. In our analysis, we did not include this adjustment, for the sake of simplicity.

7 4.5% (0.3%) is close to the historical long-run average default rate of companies rated B- (BBB-) by S&P Global Ratings.

8 This is also one of the reasons we found it unnecessary to include oil price for the modelling of credit risk of the energy sector in EU27+1, as we found the stock market growth was sufficient.

9 Source: “Stress Testing Exercise 2018” available at http://www.eba.europa.eu/risk-analysis-and-data/eu-wide-stress-testing/2018. The baseline scenario is the consensus estimate among EU27+1 Central Banks. Curly brackets refer to the author’s addition.

10 We adopt the same colour conventions as in Figure 3.

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