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In last year’s Review & Outlook issue, we celebrated the fact that we’d made it through 2009 and were looking forward to gradual improvement in 2010. One year later, although things are far from rosy, it’s probably safe to say that 2010 has been a year of stabilization in the insurance industry and the economy in general. The Dow is once again regularly topping 11,000, mass layoffs have slowed to a trickle and retailers are anticipating a spike in holiday spending.

The real problem right now seems to be a lingering uncertainty on the part of many U.S. businesses about how to proceed. So much is still up in the air, including the possible repeal of healthcare reform and the Bush-era tax cuts, that typically decisive business owners have been reduced to acting like deer in the headlights.

It’s not necessarily a matter of being short on cash. Although some businesses were hurting in 2010, many–including banks, insurance companies and the big brokers–experienced significant profitability. But with so much uncertainty still swirling around Capitol Hill and the economy, many businesses simply feel safer sitting on their assets instead of gearing up for growth.

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