The week's winners

Amlin up 1.6%
Hardy up 0.2%

The week's losers

Royal & SunAlliance down 10.9%
Allianz down 10%

The `January sales' on the stock market - the FTSE 100 lost 10% in January - don't tell the full story as far as insurance is concerned.

Despite receiving a frighteningly heavy kicking over the last four weeks, there would seem to be no shortage of interest in the sector.

At least one new start-up insurer is planning to burst on to the market and two Lloyd's operators are plotting to float, with one hoping to go in the next few months if the West's conflict with Iraq allows. Venture capitalists are reportedly keen to invest, prompting one industry insider to comment: "They're prepared to put in £100m-£200m and it doesn't have to be a float."

The sector got a lift on Monday when the FSA eased pressure on life assurers' solvency requirements. It said it would consider granting waivers to insurers on the brink of breaching solvency margins.

Royal & SunAlliance, which had lost 17.7% over January, put on a spurt of nearly 10% on Monday, leading Aviva and AXA which put on 7.9% and 4.6% respectively.

Elsewhere, Lloyd's operator Amlin continued its rise and was tipped as a `buy' by analyst Joanna Parsons at ABN Amro, which set a target price of 150p. The stock was at 132p when this column went to press.

AIG became the latest casualty of asbestos reserving. Its shares tumbled 9% in New York after it said it needed to set aside $3.5bn (£2.14bn) before tax and reinsurance to cover workers' compensation and directors' and officers' liability claims.