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Moody's: Life Insurers Are Prepared For Hard Times

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Most of the world’s life insurers have enough cash and access to cash to cope with periods of severe financial stress, a rating agency says.

Analysts at Mood’s Investors Service, New York, has published that conclusion in a commentary that builds on an earlier effort to develop a U.S. liquidity model.

The new, global model can be applied to non-U.S. insurers as well as to U.S. insurers, the analysts write.

The new “global stress test” includes a measure of the risk that insurance operating company liabilities may “cost more than expected due to performance of secondary guarantees and/or elevated hedging costs,” Moody’s analysts write in the commentary.

The test also looks at the possibility that unexpected losses on high-qualify debt securities might hurt investment yields, and the possibility that liquidity stress might force an insurer to sell held-to-maturity investments at a loss.

The results of applying that test confirm the analysts’ view “that the liquidity of most life operating companies is sufficiently strong to weather a severe stress liquidity event,” the analysts conclude.

The analysts conducted the test by looking at how companies did during a 1-year period that started during the unpleasant days of late 2008.

The analysts put the companies in six regions: North America, Japan, Germany, Rest of Europe, United Kingdom, and Asia excluding Japan.

At that point, the median ratio of liquid assets to liquid liabilities was 208% in North America and ranged from 242% to 331% in the other regions.

The minimum ratio for any company included in the review was 144% for a U.S. company. Elsewhere, the minimums ranged from 161% to 237%.

Maximum ratios ranged from just 268% in Germany to more than 999% in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the company with the highest ratio of liquid assets to liquid liabilities had a ratio of 634%.

When the analysts looked at the ratio of possible investment losses to invested assets by region, the median was 17% in North America. Elsewhere, the median ranged from 28% in the United Kingdom to 45% in the Rest of Europe.

In the United States, the ratio of possible losses to equity was high at some companies, but many of those companies have access to solid bank lines of credit and other sources of liquidity, the analysts report.