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Property rates rising, but not across the board: Marsh

Property rates rising, but not across the board: Marsh

While insurance rates continue to rise in most loss-affected areas and classes of business, buyers still can achieve decreases in many lines of business, according to a fourth-quarter market briefing released Thursday by Marsh Inc.

Despite the year's insured catastrophe losses of more than $100 billion, capacity in the global insurance market remains plentiful and there is no evidence of across-the-board price increases, New York-based Marsh reported in its “Global Insurance Market Quarterly Briefing: Q4 2011.”

The Marsh report said that while countries affected by catastrophes have seen significant rate increases, noncatastrophe-exposed buyers saw property insurance rates either decrease or remain stable in most areas of the world.

Meanwhile, the U.S. property market shows signs of firming, Marsh said, with renewal results “varying significantly from account to account.”

The report also noted that flooding in Thailand—likely to cost insurers more than $10 billion—provided another illustration of the vulnerability of global supply chains.

“Insurers have responded to this year's events by attempting to secure rate increases where there have been significant losses,” Marsh said in the report. The brokerage said its benchmarking data show almost half of all its U.S. property insurance clients experienced rate increases at renewals during the second half of the year compared with 31% renewing during the first six months of 2011.

Most of the accounts seeing price increases were programs that included catastrophe exposures, Marsh said, while the one-third of clients reporting price decreases were largely those with little or no catastrophe exposure or losses.

Reflecting insurers' approach to catastrophe-exposed programs, Marsh said Japan programs with earthquake risk typically saw rate increases of up to 50% in the fourth quarter, while programs in Thailand are renewing with increases of up to 30%.

Marsh said employee benefits insurance rates increased globally during the fourth quarter, due largely to rising medical costs and the resulting increase in health care premiums at renewal.

The broker noted that underwriters of U.S. liability business are requiring more data before underwriting programs. Meanwhile, as medical costs continue to accelerate and underlying claims costs increase, the U.S. workers compensation market is seeing premiums rise while capacity is becoming constricted, Marsh said.

While directors and officers liability insurance rates continued to “escalate dramatically” in China during the fourth quarter, rate increases were more moderate in other emerging-market countries such as India. D&O rates continued to decline for U.S. buyers with favorable risk profiles, though the pace of those declines slowed, Marsh said.

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