U.S. life and health insurance industry profits climbed 29% in 2004.[@@]

Weiss Ratings Inc., Jupiter, Fla., says total industry profits increased to $39 billion last year, up from $30 billion in 2003.

Profits for the individual annuity and group life lines were down, but the performance of the individual life and group health lines was strong, Weiss says. Industry profits increased 11% in the group life market, to $7.9 billion, and 32% in the group health market, to $4.4 billion.

The stock market rebound and increased stability in the bond markets contributed to the improvement, allowing life and health insurers as a group to report $1.1 billion in net realized capital gains on investments sold, written down or written off during the year. In 2003, life and health insurers racked up $4.6 billion in capital losses.

Strong gains in the value of corporate bond holdings helped insurers compensate for weakness in the prices of real estate investments, Weiss says.

Income on investments held in insurers’ portfolios rose 4.8%, to $6.9 billion.