Seattle-based property and casualty insurer Safeco reported a 13.5 percent increase in its fourth-quarter profit today as expenses from catastrophic losses declined.

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Seattle-based property and casualty insurer Safeco reported a 13.5 percent increase in its fourth-quarter profit today as expenses from catastrophic losses declined.

Profit for the three months that ended Dec. 31 was $216.4 million, or $1.96 a share, compared with $190.7 million, or $1.53 a share, in the same period a year earlier.

That was better than Wall Street analyststs had expected, and shares of Safeco closed up $1.97, or 3.2 percent, at $63.48 today.

Safeco said the combined ratio of its property and casualty business was 87.2 for the fourth quarter, an improvement from 89.1 a year earlier. The combined ratio — the percent of each premium dollar that goes to claims and expenses — helps gauge an insurer’s underwriting profitability. A ratio at or below 100 points to a profit.

Pretax catastrophe losses were $36.1 million for the quarter, mainly because of the December windstorm in the Northwest, Safeco said. That was down from losses of $51.4 million in the year-ago period, mostly from Hurricane Wilma in South Florida.

For the full year, Safeco reported a profit of $880 million, or $7.51 a share, up from $691.1 million, or $5.43 a share, in 2005.


Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com