NU Online News Service, June 9, 2004, 4:01 p.m. EDT – Near-term prospects for U.S. life insurers are the strongest in several years.[@@]

Analysts at Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, New York, deliver that assessment in a midyear review of the U.S. life insurance market.

Life insurers still have to cope with the increased cost of variable product guarantees and the lingering effects of the stock market slump and bond defaults of the early 2000s.

Many insurers are trying to improve profits by selling products with low profit margins that could turn out to be risky, the S&P analysts write.

But, for now, life insurers are continuing to recover nicely from the recent period of low interest rates and investment market turmoil, according to Rodney Clark, an S&P director.