Hammered by huge hits to the mortgage and financial guarantee market–on top of softening prices, deteriorating investment results and a $20.2 billion swing over to an underwriting loss–the U.S. property-casualty sector’s net after-tax income plummeted 57.4 percent to $13.9 billion in the first six months of 2008, down from $32.7 billion last year, two industry groups reported.

Overall, the industry’s profitability–as measured by annualized rate of return on average policyholders’ surplus–was 5.4 percent in first-half 2008, down dramatically from 13.1 percent the year before, according to data released by the Jersey City, N.J.-based Insurance Services Office Inc. and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America in Des Plaines, Ill.

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