“Subject to normal catastrophe experience.” Only in a report about reinsurance could this appear as an ordinary disclaimer.

The latest outlook for the global reinsurance industry from Fitch is cautiously optimistic (the ratings agency upgraded the sector’s outlook from “negative” to “stable” late last year). Still, the industry’s “relative resilience and outperformance during the course of the financial crisis have come at a cost,” the agency says. Plentiful capital and spare capacity are putting pressure on premium rates, with prices during the January renewal season falling by 5-10%, on average.

What’s more, insured “catastrophe events” in the first half of 2010 surged to US$22bn, double the average for the six-month period in the previous decade, with the earthquake in Chile and ongoing fallout from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico the main culprits. Further above-average losses will, as Fitch warns, cloud an otherwise sanguine outlook for reinsurers.

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