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Agency auto policy growth hit 11-year high at Progressive in November

The year-over-year rates of growth in Progressive Corp.'s total personal auto policies in force held steady relative to October's result at just more than 7.7% in November, according to a review of data reported in a Dec. 14 release, but the trajectory of the expansion within the company's two primary distribution channels varied.

Progressive maintained its momentum in its agency auto business as its 5.04 million of policies in force in that channel in November represented an increase of nearly 6.2% from the same month in 2015. Agency auto policies in force grew 5.7% in October. The result marked a 12th consecutive month of year-over-year expansion in a business that experienced 17 straight months of contraction through November 2015. Progressive last achieved year-over-year growth in agency auto policies in force of more than 6.0% in September 2005 when the rate of expansion was 6.4%. Prior to the November result, the company's highest rate of growth in agency auto policy count during the past 11 years had been an expansion of just less than 6.0% in June 2012 prior to the impact of rounding.

The direct auto growth rate, meanwhile, slowed to 9.2% in November from 9.7% in October. Direct auto policies in force growth peaked in July at more than 11.6%, and the November growth rate was the slowest shown in that channel since December 2015. Through September, the direct channel's policy count expanded year over year by double-digit percentages for eight straight months.

The commercial lines business also experienced something of a dip in its rate of growth in policies in force. The 9.9% growth rate in November marked the first time since February that the pace of expansion on a percentage basis did not reach the double digits. The 0.4% month-over-month retreat in commercial lines policy count from October levels represented the first such downward move on a sequential basis since December 2014.

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Progressive reported personal vehicle net premiums written of $1.46 billion in November, up 13.5% from the same month in 2015. On a trailing-12-months basis, personal vehicle net premiums written of $19.62 billion represented an increase of 9.4% from the comparable period ended in November 2015.

Combined ratios of 94.0% in the agency auto business, 91.6% in the direct auto business and 88.1% in the commercial lines business for November all represented improvements from October's results, but the agency auto and commercial lines values represented increases from the year-earlier month. For the first 11 months of 2016, all three segments have combined ratios that are in line with or better than Progressive's 96% target, with agency auto at 95.2%, direct auto at 96% and commercial lines at 93.8%.

The year-to-date combined ratio in Progressive's property business was 103.5% through November, but that figure includes 7.2 points of amortization expense associated with the April 2015 acquisition of a controlling interest in ARX Holding Corp. The company said it had incurred $556 million, or 2.7 loss ratio points, of catastrophe losses through the first 11 months of 2016 across its businesses, more than double the $239 million, or 1.3 points, of losses it recorded in the year-earlier period.