Commercial Rates Continue Steady Climb in Q4, January; Workers' Comp Seen as 'Distressed'

Property and casualty commercial-lines rates climbed by 5 percent during 2012’s fourth quarter, according to a quarterly survey. Rates also rose by 5 percent for the month of January, MarketScout’s latest Barometer reveals.

Both reports lend more evidence to the idea that the commercial-lines segment is on a slow but steady upward trajectory.  

The latest survey from The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers shows that the 5 percent 2012 fourth-quarter overall rate increase across all account sizes outpaces the increases seen in any other quarter during the year. Rates were up by 3.9 percent in 2012’s third quarter, up by 4.3 percent in the second quarter, and up by 4.4 percent in the first quarter.

But CIAB President and CEO Ken A. Crerar says in a statement that he does not see much of a difference between the latest survey results and the increases seen earlier in the year. “I think you can characterize the fourth quarter as more of the same,” Crerar says. “Carriers were still cautious about the risks they were putting on their books and pushed for price increases where they could get them.”

Rates for small accounts increased 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter, rates for medium accounts were up by 5.1 percent, and rates for large accounts climbed by 4.4 percent.

CIAB says the workers’-compensation market “clearly was in distress last quarter.” An analysis released with the survey results says, “In one Northeast broker’s words, workers’ compensation was ‘crashing.’ The broker said prices escalated 30 percent to 50 percent, mostly on large accounts.”

The analysis cites another broker in the Midwest stating that some carriers do not seem interested in writing workers’ comp.

Superstorm Sandy has also had an impact on the property market, brokers report. The CIAB analysis says a Southeast broker commented, “Sandy brought flood back under the microscope and carriers scrutinized coverage harder and cut flood limits.”  

CIAB further states that in the Northeast, carriers decreased limits for flood and wind while increasing deductibles.

“Brokers reported similar stories for vulnerable property across the country,” says CIAB. “Many carriers asked for percentage wind/hail deductibles and some cut back on property exposures altogether.”  

For January, Dallas-based MarketScout says rates for small accounts increased by 6 percent, while medium accounts were up by 5 percent and large accounts were up by 4 percent.

“The commercial market is continuing its slow but steady upward trajectory in rates and premiums,” says Richard Kerr, CEO of MarketScout, in a statement. “Couple this with slight increases in exposures and the overall premium written on an expiring account is frequently up 8 to 9 percent.”

By line, commercial property and general liability led the way for rate increases, with both coverage classes up by 6 percent. Business-owner policies and commercial auto were both up by 5 percent; workers’ comp, professional liability and directors and officers increased by 4 percent; inland marine, business interruption, umbrella/excess and EPLI climbed by 3 percent; and fiduciary and crime both rose by 2 percent. Surety showed the most modest increase at 1 percent.

The manufacturing and transportation industries saw the highest increases in the month, at 6 percent. Rates were up by 5 percent for the contracting, service and habitational industries, while the public entity and energy industries had rates climb by 4 percent.

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