Insurance Cycles, Spanning and Regulation

Arthur M.B. Hogan, David Nickerson


This paper offers a novel explanation of the financial underwriting cycle in the property-liability insurance industry. By doing so it resolves that significant anomaly in asset pricing theory posed by cycles in the efficient pricing of insurance coverage. In contrast to the reliance on a variety of institutional or capital market failures underlying all previous explanations of this cycle, we directly augment the complete-markets environment of traditional asset-pricing models through the presence of a single source of risk that cannot be fully hedged through existing financial markets. We realistically interpret this source of risk as unforecastable noise in the implementation of insurance regulations. Cycles in the value of underwriting insurance coverage can arise in this simple variant of a standard complete-markets pricing model owing to the effect of such regulatory risk. We offer a sufficient condition for a stable cycle to endogenously exist in market equilibrium and illustrate this condition in the context of a representative insurance firm and a regulator pursuing a countercyclical policy with noisy implementation. Interestingly, while insurance pricing is efficient in the absence of the regulator, cyclic pricing and underwriting profitability can be induced by a countercyclical regulator policy designed to stabilize the very cycle it creates.

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Copyright (c) 2019 Arthur M.B. Hogan, David Nickerson

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