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Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. and Principal Financial Group Inc. showed signs of recovery in the disability insurance market in their fourth-quarter results.

Hartford (NYSE:HIG) is reporting $52 million in new insured group disability sales and disability plan administration contract sales in the latest quarter, up from $33 million in new group disability sales for the third quarter of 2012.

Group disability premiums and premium equivalents fell to $454 million, from $522 million, but the group disability loss ratio improved, falling to 75.7 percent, from 85.8 percent.

In a presentation, the company said “strong disability loss ratios, reflecting improved long-term disability recoveries, lower incidence trends, and improving pricing” helped overall group benefits unit results.

The company lost some benefits cases, in part because of “continued pricing discipline.”

Because of previously announced moves to raise prices, “our rate adequacy has improved substantially,” Douglas Elliot, president of the commercial markets unit, said during a conference call with securities analysts. “Clearly, we have fewer accounts that need significant pricing actions.”

Principal (NYSE:PFG) reported $12.4 million in group disability sales, up from $11.9 million, and $12.9 million in individual disability sales, up from $12.4 million.

Premium and fees increased to $83 million, from $75 million, at the group disability business and to $66 million, from $61 million at the individual disability business.

Overall specialty benefits unit operating earnings were down, but the unit did well enough that the company’s executives ended up talking about other topics during their conference call with securities analysts.

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