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In addition to potentially costing hundreds or thousands of lives, a natural or terrorist catastrophe in the United States could place enormous financial demands on the insurance industry, businesses, and taxpayers. Given these financial demands, interest has been raised in bonds that are sold in the capital markets and thereby diversify catastrophe funding sources. GAO was asked to update a 2002 report on "catastrophe bonds" and assess (1) their progress in transferring natural catastrophe risks to the capital markets, (2) factors that may affect the issuance of catastrophe bonds by insurance companies, (3) factors that may affect investment in catastrophe bonds, and (4) the potential for and challenges associated with securitizing terrorism-related financial risks.

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