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PaulS's picture

Insurance and pensions blues

Clouds are gathering over the insurance sector, which holds so much of the derivatives products, triggered by corporate failures, corporate bonds and have high exposure to corporate default.

Prudential, Britain's No 2 insurer, Aviva, owner of Norwich Union, Legal & General (L&G) and Old Mutual are all expected to suffer. With the exception of the Pru, insurers' shares have continued to fall.

Concern about the impact of economic shocks on big insurers has grown since late last year, despite their persistent attempts to reassure the market. The Financial Services Authority, the regulator, has renewed its scrutiny of the capital buffers held by insurers to safeguard their investments if markets go against them.

Working with the regulator, Aviva, the Pru, L&G and Standard Life have all strengthened their capital bases as worries grew over rising debt defaults in their corporate bond portfolios.

The loss of confidence in the domestic insurance sector comes as fund managers have decided to bet on recovery in the UK banking system.

This is all bad news for pension funds in general and in the long term even for recipients of annuities.