Global rating agency AM Best is maintaining a stable market-segment outlook for the commercial lines segment of the US property-casualty insurance industry in 2019, the company has announced.
AM Best cited robust risk-adjusted capitalization, profitability in the workers’ compensation space, modestly improved interest rates, the benefits of tax reform, and stable reinsurance pricing as factors in the outlook.
According to a new Best’s Market Segment Report, those positive factors are partly counterbalanced by concerns about certain liability sublines, such as financial lines, and the commercial auto line. Increasing price competitiveness and the commoditization of commercial insurance products – particularly for smaller accounts – will force companies to explore ways to differentiate their products beyond price, AM Best said.
Other factors driving AM Best’s outlook include:
- Commercial lines insurers are benefiting from an abundance of capital despite higher catastrophe losses in 2017 and 2018. However, AM Best warned that the perception of excess capital over time could lead to poor underwriting decisions.
- The workers’ compensation line – the commercial segment’s largest – showed favorable earnings through the first three quarters of 2018. A strong labor market has more than offset year-over-year rate declines.
- After a decade of falling reinvestment rates, more companies are reporting that they have achieved rate parity when investing new money.
- Power tax rates should help improve profitability, although companies may see increased pressure to return capital to shareholders.