LOS ANGELES, Oct. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Wildfire season is well underway, with wildfires scorching a record breaking number of acres up and down California, and the peak of the season is yet to come. Mercury Insurance (NYSE: MCY) today announced two new programs the company is launching to help Californians better protect their homes and families if they live in areas prone to wildfires. Homeowners who take one or more steps to either harden their homes against wildfires or live in a community recognized by the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA) as a Firewise USA® site will be eligible to receive discounts of up to 18%.  And, homeowners who have a California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan policy are now able to strengthen their protection with Mercury’s new difference-in-conditions endorsement, which fills the gaps in their FAIR Plan coverage.

Mercury Insurance is one of the first companies to offer wildfire mitigation discounts to California homeowners living in the wildland urban interface. Homeowners who take property and community wildfire prevention measures could be eligible to save up to 18% on the wildfire premium portion of their insurance policy.

“We’re in this together, which is why Mercury is engineering solutions to encourage proactive actions that better protect homeowners from wildfires,” said Jane Li, Mercury Insurance’s director of product management. “It’s important for homeowners in these areas to take proactive steps to help shield their property from fire, and it’s just as important for everyone in the community to work together to reduce their shared ignition risks, which could save them money and improve their insurance eligibility.”

The property level discount applies to policies for hardened home structures and landscapes with sufficient defensible space. Installing a class “A” rated roof, using siding made of stucco, metal or

The bad news for the movie business keeps piling up, enough that B. Riley analyst Eric Wold further cut his box office forecasts for both this year and 2021, before suggesting something of a return to old levels in 2022.

But in the meantime, the pandemic pinch that left theaters shut for months and Hollywood studios rescheduling most of their slates into next year or beyond continues to batter the business.

The latest news includes U.K. exhibitor chain Vue saying it will partially close a quarter of its screens during the week. The chain said in a statement that it will close 21 of its 87 theaters Tuesday through Thursday, beginning next week, “to ensure that our business is financially well-placed to withstand the uncertainty ahead.”

The move is similar to one by British competitor Odeon. Cineworld, which also owns the No. 2 U.S. chain Regal, took an even more drastic step, closing all its U.K. and U.S. locations for the next several weeks.

The situation is even more grim for B&B Theatres, the sixth-largest chain in the United States. The company warned that it was a few months away from bankruptcy if it doesn’t receive new content or government aid.

No. 1 U.S. chain AMC issued a similar warning last summer, then restructured its debt, cut a landmark revenue-sharing deal with NBCUniversal, and said it planned to issue 15 million new shares of stock. In response to the Cineworld closures, AMC said last week that it would keep theaters open and strive to open more, depending in part on potential revenues from that NBCU deal.

But the situation is ugly overall for the industry. Cineworld’s closure announcement came soon after MGM pushed back the

AM Best believes proposed public-private partnerships to address the disastrous effects on businesses related to COVID-19 are warranted, given the systemic risk posed by the pandemic.

In its new Best’s Commentary, “Retroactive Legislation, Social Inflation: Credit Negatives for Insurers,” AM Best states that it expects significant reserve uncertainty arising for the current accident year given the challenge for insurers to estimate ultimate losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the related shutdowns. Social inflation, combined with lawsuits addressing liability policies, will drive defense containment costs significantly higher. Court decisions will influence actual claims payouts, creating challenges in determining prudent reserve estimates and payout patterns. In addition, a number of legislative and policy measures are being contemplated that would nullify business interruption coverage exclusions in commercial property policies and force insurers to compensate policyholders for risks that were excluded during underwriting. Insurers with smaller capital bases in particular would be more vulnerable to these measures. AM Best previously has discussed the potential threat to property/casualty insurers’ solvency should legislated policy changes force them to pay retroactive coverage (see related Best’s Commentary).

AM Best believes any public-private partnership adopted to fill this protection gap should take into account the capital supporting all risks insurers bear, which is critical due to the uncertainty inherent in taking on those risks. As insurers consider the level of capital they should hold, they factor in the demands that each risk poses, as well as assumptions about the level of diversification among these risks. In addition, rating agencies and regulators require a specified level of capital commensurate with the level of risk the insurers have on their books.

“Pandemic risk does not afford insurance companies any geographic diversification due to its global nature,” said Stefan Holzberger, AM Best chief rating officer. “Diversification by line of

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese wholesale prices fell 0.8% in September from the same month a year earlier, data showed on Monday, marking the seventh straight month of year-on-year declines and heightening the risk the country will slide back into deflation.

Squeezed mostly by soft global demand for commodities and Japanese machinery goods, the weakness in wholesale prices highlights the challenge Tokyo faces in cushioning the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the world’s third-largest economy.

The 0.8% fall in the corporate goods price index (CGPI), which measures the price companies charge each other for their goods and services, was bigger than a median market forecast for a 0.5% drop. It followed August’s 0.6% year-on-year decrease.

Wholesale prices also slid 0.1% in September from August, marking the first on-month drop in four months, the data released by the Bank of Japan (BOJ) showed.

“With the global economy still reeling from the pandemic’s pain, the pace of its recovery remains modest. That will weigh on Japan’s wholesale inflation,” a BOJ official told a briefing.

The drop in wholesale prices adds to headaches for the BOJ, which frets that sluggish consumption, particularly for services, will push consumer inflation further away from its 2% target.

Core consumer prices – the BOJ’s key inflation measurement – fell 0.4% in August from a year earlier, marking their fastest year-on-year drop in almost four years.

The slew of soft price data may increase the chance the BOJ will cut its inflation forecasts at this month’s rate review, when it also conducts a quarterly review of its projections.

Japan suffered its biggest economic slump on record in the second quarter as the pandemic crippled demand. Analysts expect any rebound to remain modest as fears of a second wave of infections weigh on consumption.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing

LONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters) – A push by big technology firms into financial services in developing countries will improve access to them, but might also make traditional lenders more vulnerable, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) said.

The expansion in emerging markets has generally been more rapid and broad-based than that in advanced economies, the FSB, which coordinates financial regulation for the Group of 20 Economies (G20), said in the report released on Monday.

Lower levels of access to traditional banking and financial services developing economies had created demand for services now offered by big tech firms, the report found, particularly among low-income populations and in rural areas.

An increasing availability of mobile phones and internet access supported this trend, the FSB said.

“However the expansion of BigTech activity also gives rise to risks and vulnerabilities,” it said, pointing to lower financial literacy and firms using other data gathered.

“Competition from BigTech firms may, in places, also reduce the profitability and resilience of incumbent financial institutions and lead to greater risk-taking,” the FSB added. ($1 = $1.0000) (Reporting by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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