Better than expected bottom line numbers and the opposite result for premium growth marked first-quarter earnings for property-casualty insurers, equity analysts said.
Light catastrophe losses and strong underlying margins also contributed to the bullish season, analysts reported.
“About 80 percent of the companies in our universe have surprised us to the upside,” said Bank of America securities analyst Brian Meredith.
This compares to the previous period when about half of those same companies missed earnings estimates, “in many cases due to adverse loss development,” he added.
But premium rates under pressure led to top-line growth that was weaker than expected, along with the fact that companies were reducing exposure to catastrophe losses.
“Several companies projected pricing would improve the second half of the year as primary companies adjust for the increased cost of reinsurance,” Mr. Meredith wrote.
Morgan Stanley analyst William Wilt said that powerful contractual changes left the reinsurers looking more attractive, “though still largely unloved by investors.”
“It may take a storm or two and proof of lower losses to get them moving,” he said.
Mr. Meredith said that personal lines results have been the strongest, followed by primary commercial line carriers. Light catastrophe losses, robust capital management and large reserve releases contributed to excellent personal line results.
Reinsurers’ premium growth suffered not only because of wobbly rates, but also because these carriers are reducing catastrophe exposures. “That said, many are holding back capacity for July 1 renewals,” he wrote.
A look at the reinsurance premium growth rate after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 would show that such growth was weak at the January 1 renewal season and July 1 renewals saw a dramatic pick-up in growth, Mr. Meredith added.
Mr. Wilt said that the p-c stocks he covers have outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 by about 250 basis points since the start of the earnings season. “We expect the momentum will continue to build as fundamentals, though not revenues, surprise to the upside,” he wrote.