Unyielding Soft Market

Fierce competition, abundant capacity and diminished demand continue to suppress commercial property/casualty rates, according to two market surveys. The First Quarter RIMS Benchmark Survey found that the soft market (now in its seventh year) shows few signs of loosening its grip on commercial insurance pricing, benefiting risk managers with lower premiums. Average premiums in every line tracked by the survey fell in the first quarter of 2010, though forecasts for an above-average hurricane season may signal rising premiums on the horizon. Meanwhile, the latest quarterly Commercial P/C Market Index Survey from the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB) reported that rates on average declined by 5.3 percent in the first quarter compared with a 5.6 percent decrease in the fourth quarter of 2009. Council President Ken Crerar noted: “Until demand picks up we don’t see any significant uptick in commercial rates for the foreseeable future.†Ã‚  Ã‚  Seventy-three percent of the brokers responding to the survey said they saw no increase in demand from last quarter. Commercial pricing for small, medium and large business accounts continued to decline in the first quarter, with the largest decline in the large accounts, according to the Council’s survey data. All individual commercial lines surveyed experienced rate decreases. According to the RIMS survey, general liability was the most competitive line with the average premium falling 4.4 percent in the first quarter. The average property premium, which had been essentially flat over the past several quarters, fell 2.9 percent. The average workers compensation premium was down 2.0 percent, and average directors and officers liability (D&O) premium was off 1.1 percent after being flat to slightly higher throughout 2009 due to rate increases in the financial institution sector. Check out I.I.I. information on the industry’s financial outlook.

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