Bond insurers are reporting record earnings as they venture beyond guaranteeing municipal bonds and into the exotic world of asset-backed securities.

This obscure but influential business, led by such firms as MBIA Insurance Corp., Financial Security Assurance Inc., and AMBAC Indemnity Corp., enjoyed an 18% rise in net income last year, to an unprecedented $901 million, according to a report issued this week by Fitch Investors Service. This rise accompanies a 7% decrease in premiums received from insuring municipal bonds, Fitch said.

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