P-C Rates Find Balance in 2019

Reflecting little change from the fourth quarter of 2018, first-quarter 2019 composite rates for commercial and personal lines were both up +2% compared to first-quarter 2018, according to the latest quarterly MarketScout pricing survey.

In commercial lines, commercial auto continued to lead rate increases in the first quarter, clocking in at +7%. As a whole, transportation experienced the largest rate increases of all industry classes (+4%). Most commercial coverage lines registered smaller increases in the +1-2% range. Workers comp was the only line where rates continued to decrease (-1%). Surety rates stayed flat.

Richard Kerr, MarketScout CEO, points out that energy exposures are starting to see more rate increases; in the first quarter, average increases in this industry class were +2.5%. “Otherwise, the commercial market is stable,” he says.

In personal lines, rate increases for all homes averaged +2%, while personal auto rate increases averaged +2.5%. Pricing for personal articles registered a +1% hike on average.

In light of recent heavy catastrophe losses, those increases may seem minor. But “the personal lines market is so large that the composite rate can sometimes be misunderstood,” Kerr explains. “There is an incredible volume of business in benign areas, which helps stabilize rate increases in catastrophe-exposed areas such as Florida and California.”

In those states specifically, it’s a different story entirely. “Some of the insurers of larger homes in Florida are increasing rates significantly or choosing to restrict their writings,” Kerr points out. And in California, homeowners are experiencing rate increases in the 20-40% range, he says: “It’s a mess for wildfire- and mudslide-exposed properties.”

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.