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After a year of near-record catastrophe losses, increasing combined ratios and highly disappointing investment yields, the natural expectation is that insurers looking to stabilize their books have but one choice: to raise prices.

And yes, some signs of a market hardening are becoming visible: The most recent Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers pricing survey, for example, indicated average rates in the third quarter turned positive for the first time since the end of 2003.

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