MetLife quarterly profit notches higher on U.S. investments, underwriting

May 6 (Reuters) - U.S. insurer MetLife Inc on Wednesday reported first-quarter adjusted earnings that notched up 2% from a year earlier, buoyed by investment growth and strong underwriting in some of the company’s U.S. businesses.

MetLife’s adjusted earnings were $1.45 billion compared with $1.42 billion a year earlier.

The insurer reported an 8% increase for adjusted earnings in its U.S. business, to $780 million from $724 million, which helped to compensate for quarterly losses in MetLife’s international units.

Favorable variable investment income in MetLife’s U.S. group retirement business and strong underwriting in its U.S. property casualty business helped drive the increase, the company said.

MetLife’s overall net investment income sank by 38% to $3.06 billion from $4.9 billion a year ago, driven by unfavorable changes in the fair value of certain securities, MetLife said.

MetLife reported net derivative gains of $4.2 billion compared with $115 million a year earlier.

MetLife holds a book of derivatives to hedge against the risk of market swings. Such gains do not indicate actual performance of the company, but reflect the effect of accounting rules, an issue that has occurred in some previous quarters.

On an adjusted per-share basis, the company earned $1.58 compared with $1.48 in the same period a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.44 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. However, it was not immediately clear if the numbers were comparable. (Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in Washington Crossing, Penn. Editing by Matthew Lewis)