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Two steps forward, one step back: For every couple of events that augured a definitive swing to a hard market this year—a major catastrophe here, increasing combined ratios there—some other factor contributed to helping keep prices soft, whether it was fear over the eurozone debt crisis or underwriters willing to heavily discount new business.

But while the pace of change has been staggered and unsteady—and is still by no means universal across all lines—there is little doubt that the market has undergone a significant transition in 2011.

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