The week's winners
Allianz up 10.4%
Culver up 52.4%
Royal & SunAlliance up 7.4%

The week's losers
Cox down 5%
Hiscox down 5%
Amlin down 4.9%

Questions have to be asked about the current flurry of flotation activity in the reinsurance sector.

A lot has changed since July last year, when Heath Lambert pulled its planned flotation, blaming stock market volatility.

But the reinsurance market is hardly in its best health.

Benfield kept the market waiting, but decided it had calmed down enough to launch its own float and now it would seem that there is at least one other waiting in the wings.

Aspen Re, the reinsurance arm of Wellington, is now reported to be planning to float in New York for about $1.3bn (£800m).

The company itself is not commenting, but is understood to have appointed Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs for the float and to be working towards a float within the next three months.

Despite suggestions of support for Benfield's plans, any investor would be wise to ask if this is the right time for a reinsurance-related float.

Just last week, Standard & Poor's issued a negative outlook for the industry for the sixth year running.

S&P credit analyst Stephen Searby gave this ominous view: "Despite further price increases during the January 2003 renewal season, the market continues to suffer from a diminished quality of capital, reduced financial flexibility (defined as the ability to source capital relative to requirements), prior-year liabilities, the overhang of reinsurance recoverables, and the likelihood that many companies' operating performance will fall short of expectations."

Not content with that unpromising analysis, he added that reinsurers were finding it hard to cash in on the hard market.

The glimmer of hope lies in the fact that the newcomers to the market - of which Aspen Re is one - seem to be doing better than the more established players.

With an average combined ratio of 127% for the four biggest players (Munich Re, Swiss Re, Employers Re and General Re) reinsurers and investors alike will be banking on a recovery from the younger blood.