Amsterdam Financial Services Correspondent
Ben's Feed
Jan 12, 2012

2012 starts with bad weather signs for insurers

BOSTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Damaging hailstorms in
Australia. Unprecedented tornadoes in the southeastern United
States. Constant windstorms in northern Europe. Sound familiar?

This year is starting a lot like last year in terms of
unexpectedly severe weather, to the consternation of the
insurance industry, which paid out more than $100 billion in
2011 on natural disasters.

Jan 12, 2012

Bank plaintiffs ask NY to review MBIA’s finances

By Ben Berkowitz

(Reuters) – The remaining four banks suing bond insurer MBIA Inc over its restructuring have again asked New York regulators to commission an outside review of losses the company may face, arguing that its solvency is in question.

In a letter sent to the New York State Department of Financial Services on Wednesday night, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, the banks’ lawyer asked the department to “retain a qualified independent expert to analyze expected future losses in MBIA Insurance’s structure finance portfolio and to take any appropriate regulatory action based on the results of that independent analysis.”

Jan 11, 2012

US insurers expect better profits this year-survey

Jan 11 (Reuters) – Three-quarters of executives from
the U.S. property insurance industry expect profitability to
improve this year, amid widespread signs of a return to pricing
power, the Insurance Information Institute said on Wednesday.

Reporting the results of a survey at its annual industry
forum, the III also said that nearly 80 percent of executives
expect the industry’s combined ratio — a measure of claims and
expenses as a percentage of every dollar collected in premiums

Jan 6, 2012

Fed should look at boosting housing, small firms: Rosengren

HARTFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve should consider doing more to speed the U.S. recovery, a top Fed official said on Friday, possibly by buying more mortgage-backed securities to shore up the flagging housing sector.

Policymakers should also look at ways to ease financing for small businesses, which in previous recoveries were an important engine for job growth but this time around have lost jobs overall, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said in remarks prepared for delivery to a business group in Hartford, Connecticut.

Jan 6, 2012

US Office vacancies fell in Q4 as rents rose -Reis

BOSTON, Jan 6 (Reuters) – The U.S. office vacancy rate
fell in the fourth quarter of 2011 and rents rose for the fifth
straight period, signaling that a recovery is well under way,
real estate research firm Reis Inc said on Friday.

The vacancy rate dipped to 17.3 percent in the quarter from
17.4 percent in the third quarter and 17.6 percent at the end of
2010, Reis said.

Jan 3, 2012

Insurers rally, defying history of January malaise

BOSTON, Jan 3 (Reuters) – Shares in insurance
companies rallied on Tuesday, starting the year to the upside
after taking a beating in 2011 and defying new research that
suggests they could underperform in the short term.

The S&P insurance index rose 2.2 percent,
outperforming a 1.8 percent gain for the broader S&P 500. All
but one of the index’s 22 components were higher, led by
Genworth Financial (GNW.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Lincoln National (LNC.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and AIG
(AIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research), all more than 4.5 percent higher on the day.

Dec 30, 2011

MGIC puts more capital into main unit

BOSTON, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Mortgage insurer MGIC
Investment Corp (MTG.N: Quote, Profile, Research) on Friday said it has put another $200
million into its primary operating unit so that it meets certain
regulatory capital requirements and can keep writing new
business.

The company said it made the contribution to Mortgage
Guaranty Insurance Corp last week. That lets the unit meet
regulatory requirements in Wisconsin. The company said it
already meets the capital requirements in other states where it
does business without the need for any waivers.

Dec 29, 2011

Analysis: Pricing power evades insurers despite losses

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Despite more than $100 billion in disaster losses around the world this year, insurers are not yet experiencing a broad and sustained increase in pricing power, defying predictions from a year ago that even half those losses would be enough to turn the industry around.

For investors, that means picking winners in 2012 will be harder than expected. Analysts say the key is companies with healthy capital levels and reserve strength; those that have already shown some pricing leverage; and the brokers, who are usually first to benefit in a cycle turn.

Dec 29, 2011

Pricing power evades insurers despite losses

NEW YORK, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Despite more than $100
billion in disaster losses around the world this year, insurers
are not yet experiencing a broad and sustained increase in
pricing power, defying predictions from a year ago that even
half those losses would be enough to turn the industry around.

For investors, that means picking winners in 2012 will be
harder than expected. Analysts say the key is companies with
healthy capital levels and reserve strength; those that have
already shown some pricing leverage; and the brokers, who are
usually first to benefit in a cycle turn.

Dec 29, 2011

AIG says Jan. warrants not tax free

BOSTON, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Tax authorities have ruled
that a January distribution of warrants by American
International Group (AIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research) was not tax free, the bailed-out
insurer said on Thursday.

But, AIG also said it was unlikely most recipients would
have to pay taxes on the distribution anyway.

    • About Ben

      "Ben Berkowitz covers the insurance industry in New York City. He rejoined Reuters in Amsterdam in May 2009, covering the Dutch banking system and economy. He originally worked for Reuters in Los Angeles and New York from 2001 to 2006 covering everything from video games to oil. In between he was business editor at AOL, head of the editing desk at AP Business News and managing editor of Fidelity.com."
    • More from Ben

    • Follow Ben