September 10th, 2010

Week’s Top Stories: September 4- September 10

Posted at 10:00 AM ET

Earthquake in New Zealand:   A powerful earthquake hit New Zealand at 16:35 UTC on September 3, causing widespread but generally moderate damage, according to reports. The earthquake, measuring 7.0 Mw, was located 30 miles (45 kilometers) west of Christchurch, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS added that the quake was centerd a shallow 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) underground and was felt as far north as New Plymouth on the North Island. The New Zealand Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) said the earthquake was the most destructive to hit New Zealand in almost 80 years, after a magnitude 7.9 tremor hit the North Island city of Napier in 1931. The GNS added that the recent earthquake occurred on an unknown fault that appears not to have ruptured for at least 16,000 years. More than 80 aftershocks have hit New Zealand’s South Island since the main earthquake, the most powerful at 5.4 Mw.

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Chart: Guy Carpenter Bermuda Composite, Source of Earnings, First Half 2010

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CRESTA Zone Updates Swiss Re and Munich Re, which are responsible for Catastrophe Risk Evaluating and Standardising Target Accumulations (CRESTA1) boundaries, have recently made some major updates to the zones in a number of countries. In the Asia-Pacific region, the CRESTA boundaries for Australia, China, Japan, and New Zealand have undergone significant changes.

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Tropical Storm Igor:    Tropical Storm Igor, the ninth named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, developed at 15:00 UTC today (September 8 ) and is currently located approximately 95 miles (155 kilometers) southeast of the Cape Verde Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Igor currently packs sustained winds of around 40 mph (65 kmph). The storm is traveling in a westerly direction and this general motion is expected to continue for the next couple of days as the storm passes to the south of the Cape Verde Islands. The NHC said tropical storm-force winds extend 50 miles (85 kilometers) from the center of the storm.

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Update: Hurricane Earl:   Earl was downgraded to a category three hurricane, with the center of the storm presently located around 245 miles (395 kilometers) south of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and 720 miles (1,155 kilometers) south-southwest of Nantucket in Massachusetts, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Earl is currently packing sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kmph) and is moving towards the north at around 18 mph (30 kmph). A turn to the north-northeast with an increase in forward speed is expected on Friday. On this forecast track, the NHC says Earl will pass near the North Carolina Outer Bank tonight and approach southeastern New England on Friday (September 3) as it tracks parallel to the U.S. East Coast. At present, hurricane-force winds extend up to 90 miles (150 kilometers) from the center of the storm while tropical storm winds extend up to 230 miles (370 kilometers).

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Sidecars Have a Specific Role to Play:   The popularity of sidecars seems to have ended. The availability of traditional capital and access to insurance-linked securities (ILS) and other alternatives simply has made sidecars less attractive. But, reinsurers know that the market can harden at any time, with one mega-catastrophe creating near-immediate demand for fresh capital. Low overhead and an inherent exit strategy are likely to help these vehicles regain prominence in the next hard market-with investors and reinsurers alike.

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