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Reinsurance Group of America CEO encouraged by higher rates

Reinsurance Group of America Inc. took a hit to earnings from low interest rates and a strong dollar in 2016, but the recent rise in rates is "encouraging," President and CEO Anna Manning said during the company's fourth-quarter 2016 earnings call.

Low interest rates and the U.S. currency's high value reduced operating earnings 39 cents and 25 cents, respectively, for the year, Manning said.

However, there could be opportunities in the pension buy-in and buy-out market in the U.S. if interest rates continue to rise and equity markets improve, she added later in the call. "Those two combinations may be part of the catalyst for that market to continue to develop."

Manning also said that lowering the U.S. corporate tax rate would benefit Reinsurance Group of America, but she cautioned that too few details have been released to know the potential impact on the company. President Donald Trump has supported lowering the corporate tax rate to 15%.

“Until we have better information on what those changes look like, we'd just be speculating,” she said.

Reinsurance Group of America reported fourth-quarter operating income of $171.3 million, or $2.63 per share. That compared to operating income of $188.0 million, or $2.84 per share, in the year-ago quarter. The S&P Capital IQ consensus normalized EPS estimate for the quarter was $2.53.