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Progressive's private auto growth remains robust in Q1

Progressive Corp.'s rapid growth in the private auto insurance space continued in the first quarter, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of quarterly statements.

The company registered a 15.3% growth rate in the first quarter, writing $7.74 billion in direct premiums in its private auto lines, almost $1.02 billion more than the year-ago period.

Progressive continues to remain an outlier to the high side when it comes to premium growth, though the pace of that growth has slowed a bit. Sandler O'Neill & Partners analyst Paul Newsome credited the growth to Progressive being earlier in the pricing cycle, having a strong distribution channels and improving its underwriting sophistication with telematics.

Progressive's personal lines net premiums, of which private auto is a large part, grew in May by less than 10% year over year, the first single-digit rise since September 2016. A difference in calendar periods accounted for some of the slowdown, the company noted in a release. That said, Progressive also in May marked its slowest year-over-year expansion in auto policies in force since November 2017.

Across the industry, private auto premiums declined 3.4% year over year during the quarter, while the industry loss ratio improved by nearly one percentage point. Among the top 20 U.S. private auto insurers, eight reported lower loss ratios compared to the year-earlier period.

Overall, the private auto insurance industry performed well in the first quarter, Newsome said. "The industry benefited from price increases taken the past couple of years and relatively stable claim cost inflation," he said in an interview.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. mostly through its GEICO Corp. unit, and Allstate Corp. retained their respective No. 2 and No. 4 spots. Berkshire posted 6.6% year-over-year premium growth, while Allstate reported a 2.9% increase in written premiums.

Auto-Owners climbed one spot to become the 15th-largest personal automobile underwriter as it posted premium growth of nearly 12% compared to the prior year.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., far and away the largest personal auto insurer in the U.S., saw its premiums fall by 3.6% to $10.54 billion, compared to $10.93 billion a year earlier.

Several other notable companies also saw their premiums decrease year over year during the first quarter, including Nationwide Mutual Group, CSAA Insurance and Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. Their premiums declined by 8.2%, 2.6% and 3.0%, respectively.

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S&P Global Market Intelligence offers a variety of tools to analyze the underwriting performance of insurance companies.

Click here for a template to review quarterly underwriting information for insurance companies. Quarterly underwriting information by line of business is available in Parts 1 and 2 of the NAIC quarterly statements filed by U.S. insurance subsidiaries.

This information is also available in the U.S. Insurance Statutory Financials database in MIOffice.