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Two of Canada's biggest insurance companies on Wednesday reported second-quarter earnings that beat market expectations, benefiting in part from strong growth in Asia. Canadian insurance companies are expanding rapidly in Asia, selling products to the rapidly growing middle class. The strategy is helping the firms drive growth and diversify from domestic markets where competition is intense.

Canada's biggest life insurer Manulife Financial Corp reported core earnings of C$1.17 billion ($922 million), or 57 Canadian cents per share, for the second quarter, compared with C$833 million, or 40 cents a share the year before. Analysts on average had expected earnings of 55 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data. Manulife said the increase in core earnings incorporated investment gains of C$154 million and an increase of C$187 million driven by strong new business growth in Asia, higher fee income from its wealth and asset management businesses and a reduction in hedging costs.

Sun Life, Canada's third-biggest life insurer, reported net income of C$574 million ($452 million), or 93 Canadian cents per share, in the second quarter, compared with C$480 million, or 78 cents per share in the same period the year before.

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