South Korean life insurers\' net profit inched up in the first quarter of fiscal 2013 from a year earlier as investment returns climbed amid rises in market rates, the financial watchdog said Monday. The combined net profit of 24 life insurers operating in Korea came to 849.7 billion won (US$767.9 million) in the April-June period, up 0.7 percent from the previous year, according to the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS). The firms close their books on March 31. The FSS said that the life insurers reported a 2 percent on-year fall in insurance premiums at 4.4 trillion won, but investment returns including interest income gained 9.5 percent to 5.05 trillion won. A long streak of low rates continued to weigh on insurers\' bottom line, but market rates climbed in the first quarter ending on June 30, compared with three months earlier, sparked by speculation over U.S. monetary stimulus tapering. Their return on assets (ROA), a measure of profitability, stood at 0.6 percent in the first quarter, down from 0.67 percent in the previous year. The return on equity (ROE), another gauge of profitability, fell by 0.81 percentage point on-year to 6.54 percent, the FSS added.