Total economic losses from natural and man-made disasters rose sharply in 2017 partly due to hurricanes and wildfires, Swiss Re AG said Wednesday, with insured losses for the industry more than doubling. Swiss Re estimates that total economic losses reached $306 billion in 2017, a 63% increase over 2016, based on Swiss Re's preliminary data. Global insured losses from catastrophes in 2017 are estimated to be $136 billion, the company says, the third-highest on the company's records. The 2017 figure compares with $65 billion the prior year and is well above the ten-year average of $58 billion.
Large natural catastrophe losses in 2017 and current low prices are expected to push up pricing in non-life insurance and reinsurance, according to Swiss Re Institute’s Global Insurance Review 2017, and Outlook 2018/19 report. The string of natural catastrophes in the second half of 2017, including hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, earthquakes in Mexico, and wildfires in California, could cost the industry an estimated US$95 billion and lead to a combined ratio in the U.S. property and casualty insurance sector during 2017 of 109 percent, up from 101 percent in 2016.
Swiss Re, the world's second-largest reinsurer, estimated its claims burden from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in the United States and from two earthquakes in Mexico at roughly $3.6 billion in the third quarter. "Swiss Re maintains a very strong capital position and high financial flexibility to support our clients' needs, respond to market developments and execute on our capital management priorities," Chief Financial Officer David Cole said in a statement on Friday. Of the claims burden, which is net of retrocession and before tax, around $175 million was from the earthquakes in Mexico.
Hurricane Maria was somewhat less of a weather monster than the two big storms that preceded it. Harvey dumped record amounts of rain over parts of Texas, and Irma’s tropical-storm force winds covered an area wider than the Florida peninsula. Hurricane Maria could cost Puerto Rico $45 billion to $95 billion in damage, a devastating blow to the island's already ailing economy. The high end of the range, released Thursday by Moody's Analytics, represents almost an entire year's economic output for Puerto Rico. The estimate underscores "why officials are now suggesting that its economy may be set back decades," Adam Kamins, a senior economist at the firm, wrote in an analysis.
Swiss Life referred on Thursday it has been contacted by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding its cross-border business with American clients. The firm said its business with US clients via its Swiss Life Liechtenstein and Swiss Life Singapore units amounts to approximately 250 million Swiss francs ($260 million).
Reinsurance giant Swiss Re said on Monday that it expects the impacts of recent catastrophe losses will be sufficient to stabilise reinsurance industry pricing. The Swiss company said that it intends to maintain its underwriting discipline, in the face of continuing pressures from low interest rates and excess capital in the sector. The firm believes that in this way it can be a more sustainable business and make it a more reliable underwriting partner for its clients.
Tropical storm Harvey had not stopped raining on Texas before the first estimates emerged as to how many billions of dollars in damages would result from the storm. Initial estimates from insurance companies like Hannover Re put the number at $3 billion. In a note to clients, JP Morgan estimated that the insurance industry could lose $10 to 20 billion from Harvey, making it one of the top 10 costliest hurricanes to hit the U.S. Enki Holdings, a consultancy that calculates the risks and costs of various natural disasters, said Monday afternoon that its estimates for Harvey damages had reached $30 billion.
Reinsurance firm Swiss Re has given a preliminary estimate for global economic and insured losses from natural and man-made disasters of just $23 billion for the first-half of 2017, which is down 36% on the prior year and 30% below average. Economic losses are estimated at just $44 billion, down from $117 billion in H1 2016. It’s another signal that reinsurance pricing is set to remain under pressure, as insured losses from catastrophes, man-made incidents and severe weather events come in well below (30%) the 10-year average of $33 billion meaning reinsurance capital levels will remain abundant.
Swiss Life on Wednesday posted a larger-than-expected rise in half-year profit despite trimming back business in its core life insurance operations. Insurer Group reported that its first-half net profit increased 5% from last year to 524 million Swiss francs. Swiss Life said net profit rose 5 percent to 524 million Swiss francs ($538.8 million), ahead of expectations for 514 million francs in a Reuters poll of eight analysts.
Zurich Insurance posted a 21 percent rise in second-quarter net earnings as the group made strides in enacting a turnaround plan set out last year. The Swiss insurer's net profit for April through June rose to $896 million, beating even the highest estimate in Reuters poll of analysts that on average expected $790 million.
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