While April saw no major catastrophes, reinsurers took a collective intake of breath as claims from the first quarter came flooding in.

Balance sheets all round took a beating in Q1, but it wasn’t all bad news. Topping out our most popular stories this month was Hannover Re, which reported record profits despite a spike in catastrophe claims.

Next up, it seems the industry is keen to learn just how much its balance sheets might be hit: in our second most popular story of the month, Jefferies analyst James Schuck’s estimates that the 11 March earthquake could cost $10bn. But RMS’s latest estimates suggest that this figure could more than triple to $34bn, making the earthquake and tsunami one of the costliest natural disasters on record.

The market also logged on to read Schuck’s estimate that Munich Re’s Japan losses would be a “relatively moderate” $1bn.

Moody’s mulling over Flagstone Re’s rating came in fourth place, as the rating agency considered whether to downgrade the reinsurer.

This follows the series of natural disasters in the first quarter, which the rating agency contends is likely to result in a material loss for Flagstone.

Lastly, after a quarter of bad news, some insult to add to all that injury: global broking firm Willis Re reported that losses suffered to date in 2011 mean that reinsurance companies have largely exhausted their annual catastrophe loss budgets.

Reinsurers should keep their fingers crossed for a quiet US hurricane season.

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