NU Online News Service, March 18, 2003, 5:04 p.m. EST – The 181 U.S. life insurers that Moody’s Investors Service tracks ended the third quarter of 2002 with 5.8% less statutory capital than they had a year earlier, according to a new report from the rating agency’s New York office.

Lower-rated life insurers did worse than higher-rated life insurers, and 19 insurers suffered drops of 25% or more, Moody’s says.

Backing up the guaranteed minimum death benefits promised to holders of variable annuities has been especially expensive, with the reserves required at some companies going from near zero to hundreds of millions of dollars within the past year, Moody’s says.