So-called "core earnings" per common share fell to $0.42, failing to meet Bloomberg's consensus estimate of $0.45 per share. Interestingly, Manulife's disappointing earnings could be partly blamed on trouble in the oil sector. The company noted that it took a charge of $876 million related to investments in the oil and gas industry. In its release, it warned that if oil and gas prices remain at current levels, it expects there could be secondary impacts to its debt and real estate portfolios, in addition to direct negative impacts to its oil and gas-related investments. Lincoln Financial called out "lower alternative investment income" as a reason for its lower life insurance earnings when the company reported its fourth-quarter results last week. It also distanced itself from oil investments on its conference call, with one executive noting that the company "stopped investing in the energy sector a year ago." It also made a point to announce that of its $8.6 billion energy portfolio, only $600 million was invested in high-yield (riskier) energy assets on the call. Now what: The macroeconomic environment is increasingly affecting insurers of all types, particularly life insurers. Life insurance and annuity companies rely on long-term investments to generate sufficient returns to pay claims. Premiums from long-term insurance contracts are invested in everything from bonds to common stocks. Today, that presents a bit of a problem.
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