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MetLife declines after accounting blunder tied to annuity claims

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(Bloomberg) — MetLife Inc., the largest U.S. life insurer, declined in New York trading after saying that a measure of financial strength monitored by regulators was lower than previously reported.

MetLife dropped 1.6 percent to $47.12 at 10:39 a.m., the biggest fall in the 21-company Standard and Poor’s 500 Insurance Index. The combined risk-based capital ratio as of Dec. 31 was 398 percent, the New York-based company said in a regulatory filing Tuesday after markets closed. The insurer had previously said in its annual report that the figure was “in excess of 400 percent” at the end of 2014, and put the figure at 410 percent in a May conference call.

The insurer said it realized that the ratio needed to be corrected after a review of projected claims on some variable annuities with guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits. The company said last month that third-quarter profit will probably be cut by $792 million on tax costs tied to a U.K. investment subsidiary.

“Between the two seemingly one-off items, we think the reduction in MET’s excess capital position amounts to about $1.5 billion,” Thomas Gallagher, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG, said in a note to investors Wednesday.

MetLife is scheduled to report third-quarter results on Nov. 4.

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