In the third quarter, statutory net income of the largest U.S. life insurance groups more than doubled on a combined basis year over year, according to SNL Financial's analysis of third-quarter 2010 statutory insurance data.

"The spike in profitability was largely the result of lower levels of net realized capital losses rather than dramatically improved business fundamentals or strong top-line growth," says Jon Wright, SNL's director of insurance.

Based on year-end 2009 net admitted cash and invested assets, SNL gathered third-quarter statutory financial outcomes for 25 of the 27 largest U.S. life groups. The analysis revealed material divergence in the year-over-year comparisons for net income, which hiked 108.2 percent to nearly $8.7 billion, and pretax operating income, which decreased 4.4 percent to $11.6 billion. A comparable divergence is shown with year-to-date results with pretax operating income down 43.2 percent from the first nine months of 2009 to $17.2 billion but net income up 6.4 percent to $9.3 billion.

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