Markel Corp. indicates talk of ahard market may be premature, as insurers are not exhibiting thesame underwriting discipline for new business as they are forrenewals.

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During a conference call to discuss first-quarter earnings, F.Michael Crowley, Markel's president and co-chief operating officer,says while the insurer has noticed some of its competitionannouncing rate increases on renewals, Markel also continues to seeaggressive competition on new business—perhaps too aggressive.

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Crowley says Markel has heard from its agents that“some carriers are raising rates substantially [at renewal], andyet they are being very competitive on new business—not followingthe same [underwriting] philosophy.”

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The Richmond, Va.-based specialty insurer is seeking rate onboth fronts, Crowley stresses, “getting price whenever we can.”

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Positive rate increases are spotty, depending on the line—andthe environment at this point is far from a hard market, say Markelexecutives.

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The specialty insurer reported $57.7 million in net income forQ1 2012.

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Earned premiums increased to $529.6 million from $463.1 milliona year ago, and catastrophe losses within Markel's insurancesegments—primarily in the London insurance marketvia Markel International—during the first quarter were“immaterial,” the carrier said. Last year it reported a $68.7million underwriting loss due to the NewZealand earthquakes and Japan earthquakeand tsunami.

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