NU Online News Service, June 26, 4:29 p.m. – The U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery, in spite of consumer skittishness, according to experts from affiliates of Swiss Reinsurance Company, Zurich.

Consumption is up 3% from 2001 levels, and real income is up 4%, Kurt Karl, chief economist of Swiss Re Economic Research and Consulting, New York, emphasized today during a Swiss Re teleconference.

Chris Weihs, vice president-fixed income management at Swiss Re Asset Management, blamed “extremely negative” investor psychology for the U.S. investment markets’ skeptical response to solid economic fundamentals.

The country could be going through a period of “symmetrical idiocy,” during which the market will experience irrational gloom that will match the irrational exuberance of 1999 and 2000, Weihs said during the Swiss Re teleconference.

Worries about corporate governance and “outright fraud” are also helping to create a “very cautious” environment, Weihs added.

Investors will continue to look for consistent growth stocks and quality fixed-income holdings, while shunning technology and telecommunications stocks, Weihs predicted.

So what will all this mean for life and health insurers?

William Yankus, managing director with a third Swiss Re affiliate, Fox-Pitt Kelton, New York, said in an interview after the teleconference that a number of life insurers have the potential to report big improvements in earnings.

Although the recent stock market volatility could hurt some life insurers, the insurance sector as a whole has strong fundamentals, Yankus said.