NU Online News Service, April 4, 2005, 4:32 p.m. EDT

A rating agency is attributing its decision to downgrade a Hartford life insurer 1 notch in part to the insurer’s “modest overall earnings.”[@@]

Analysts in the Chicago office of Fitch Ratings are cutting long-term debt issuer rating for The Phoenix Companies Inc. to BBB plus, from A minus, and the insurer financial strength rating of the company’s main life insurance subsidiary to A plus, from AA minus.

The outlook for the ratings is stable, Fitch says in a comment on the rating changes.

Phoenix has a solid insurance franchise and a strong balance sheet, but past problems with asset-management operations and other operations continue to hurt the company’s earnings, Fitch says.

The rating outlook is stable because Phoenix has been making some progress at cleaning up old problems and Fitch believes Phoenix will continue to do so, the rating agency says.