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Analyst: Earnings May Be Less Unusual

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Some large, publicly traded U.S. life insurers may have trouble beating 2005 results during the first quarter because of the one-time gains they used to improve the 2005 results.

Suneet Kamath and Andrew Fernandez, securities analysts, give that assessment in a preview of the first-quarter earnings season released by Sanford C. Bernstein & Company L.L.C., New York.

Healthy stock prices and slowly increasing interest rates should help big life insurers report solid profits for the first quarter, but 2006-2005 comparisons may suffer because “positive unusual items,” such as releases of reserves, helped the big insurers increase median operating earnings per share growth to 19%, Kamath and Fernandez write.

Without the one-time gains, the companies would have reported median EPS growth of just 11%, the analysts write.