The U.S. life insurance industry reported $33 billion in statutory net operating gains in 2005, up from about $31 billion in 2004.

Conning Research and Consulting Inc., Hartford, has published those figures in an analysis of life industry profits.

Recent gains have enabled the industry to boost overall capital substantially, with surplus rising to almost $281 billion in 2005, up 3.5% from the 2004 figure.

Conning predicts statutory net gains will rise to $33 billion this year, $35 billion in 2007 and $38 billion in 2008.

The firm expects operating margins for the industry to fall to about 6% in 2006, from 6.2% in 2005, then rise to 6.1% in 2007 and 6.3% in 2008.

Net premiums for all lines could rise 4.7% this year, to $553 million, from $528 million last year, Conning estimates.