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NEW YORK -- The U.S. property/casualty insurance industry's surplus set a record high last year, according to a new study by the Insurance Services Office Inc.

ISO reported that the industry's surplus reached $310.2 billion last year, up $54.7 billion -- or more than 21% -- from 1996. The industry's aftertax net income also grew 45.7% to $35.6 billion in 1997.

According to ISO, factors in the industry's performance included a relative lack of catastrophe losses -- $2.6 billion last year compared with $7.3 billion in 1996 -- and increased capital gains. ISO also noted an improvement in the industry's combined ratio to 101.7% last year from 105.8% in 1996.