By Noor Zainab Hussain
(Reuters) - JLT Re's global property-catastrophe reinsurance index fell 1.2 percent in Jan. 1 policy renewals, the broker said on Wednesday, dashing the industry's hopes of higher reinsurance premiums after a second straight year of big losses.
Reinsurance prices, chiefly set in two batches at the beginning of January and July, have fallen in recent years as traditional reinsurers face competition from new players and products such as catastrophe bonds.
JLT Re said rate increases were restricted to categories which had suffered substantial losses or where performance had worsened.
"Despite another active catastrophe year in the United States, property-catastrophe rate changes were modest," said Ed Hochberg, chief executive officer of JLT Re in North America.
Insurers and reinsurers faced a bill of $80 billion (£63.1 billion) from several catastrophes in 2018 including hurricanes Florence and Michael, typhoons Jebi, Mangkhut and Trami, flooding in Western Japan and the California wildfires.
Together, 2017 and 2018 represent the costliest two-year period ever for insured catastrophe losses, with a hefty bill of $150 billion in 2017, JLT Re said.
Separately, the reinsurance division of Willis Towers Watson (WLTW.O) said in its own report that January renewals showed a pricing gap between accounts with peak peril exposures or poor loss records and the rest.
In general, it said, appetite from stock market investors for the reinsurance sector softened in the fourth quarter of 2018, especially when compared with the same period in 2017.
David Flandro, global head of analytics at JLT Re, said that another large year of losses could test the limits of carriers' capital resilience, as well as investors' appetite for reinsurance at a time when stock markets have grown increasingly volatile.
Willis said the Insurance-Linked Securities (ILS) market faced a more "comprehensive test" as higher returns after record losses in 2017 did not materialise as anticipated.
Reinsurance rates rose by just under 5 percent last year compared to industry expectations of a rise https://in.reuters.com/article/uk-hedgefunds-reinsurance-analysis/hurricane-hit-catastrophe-bond-managers-plan-new-funds-idINKBN1ED1Y9 by up to 20 percent.
(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Patrick Graham)