Monday, March 30, 2009

Life Insurers Need New Underwriting
Life insurers, with their large bets on variable annuities over the past fifteen years are feeling the pain of the stock market's decline. Further stock market drops could imperil some large insurers. Here is a Wall Street Journal article about Lincoln National pulling a debt offering. Here is a sobering quote:
"If the market takes another steep decline, many of these companies would have little to no excess capital," said Barclays Capital analyst Eric Berg. "If on top of that rating agencies downgrade large numbers of investment-grade bonds, the situation could become grim."
I don't imagine too many insurance companies modeled 33% declines in the S&P in one year, followed by another poor year (so far) when they were designing exotic variable insurance products with fancy riders that paid insurance companies handsomely when markets were increasing, but are providing little relief in the current market. Troubles in the insurance market are a story to watch.

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