The nation’s seven biggest life insurers reported dismal business results Friday with all of them logging a fall in outstanding contracts for individuals in fiscal 1999.

The amount of outstanding contracts — insurance and annuity benefits promised to individuals — has been on the decline for years.

Industry officials attribute the dismal performance to the lingering recession as well as to still-rampant policy cancellations, caused in part by a series of collapses seen in the industry in recent years.

The amount of outstanding contracts — a main line of business — for the nation’s biggest insurer, Nippon Life Insurance Co., stood at 326.337 trillion yen for the business year that ended March 31, down 3.3 percent from the year before.

Runnerup Dai-ichi Mutual Life Insurance Co. logged 232.184 trillion yen in outstanding contracts for fiscal 1999, down 2.8 percent.

The rest also reported a decline, ranging from Sumitomo Life Insurance Co.’s 2.4 percent fall to Meiji Life Insurance Co.’s 5.5 percent reduction.

On the bright side, the amount of new individual insurance and annuity contracts, which had also seen years of decline, recovered for some companies. Contributing to the increase was the introduction of new products by many major life insurers in the past few years featuring discounts and increased benefits.

Sumitomo Life officials said the new contracts rose 7.8 percent to 21.782 trillion yen — the first rise in four years. Yasuda Mutual also reported an increase of 2.4 percent in its amount of new individual contracts — the first rise in six years. Nippon Life logged the biggest rise among the seven, with its new individual contracts rising 10.9 percent to 26.675 trillion yen.

While Meiji Life Insurance Co. suffered a 17.2 percent drop in the amount of new individual contracts — the steepest decline among major life insurers — the officials explained that the figure is due to a change in their marketing strategy.

The firm said it is responding to the demands of some policyholders who wish to switch to policies with more medical benefits even if the amount payable at death is decreased, the officials said. Such medical benefits are not reflected in the amount of contracts, they added.

The latest business results also show that the negative spreads — between high yields promised to policyholders and low investment returns — is still weighing heavily on insurers.

The amount of these burdens ranged from 80 billion yen for Yasuda Mutual to 390 billion yen for Nippon Life. The companies told reporters they expect the amount to change little at the end of the current fiscal year.

The solvency margin ratio — a key indicator of the financial health of insurers — rose for all, helped by an increase in unrealized gains on their stock holdings. Some also sought outside funds such as loans to further improve their financial standing.

The ratios were more than 600 percent for all of the seven, well over the 200 percent that the nation’s insurers are expected to secure.