(Reuters) - MetLife Inc <MET.N>, the largest U.S. life insurer, posted a better-than-expected quarterly operating profit, helped by stronger underwriting in all its businesses.


The company reported a profit of $838 million, or 77 cents per share, in the second quarter ended June 30, up from $64 million, or 6 cents per share, a year earlier.


Derivatives losses fell steeply to $284 million from $1.4 billion a year earlier.


Excluding gains or losses from investments and derivatives, operating profit was $1.30 per share, narrowly beating analysts' estimate of $1.28 per share.


The insurer uses its derivatives program to hedge against risks such as volatile currency exchange rates, equities markets and interest rate changes.


MetLife, which reported net losses in the last two quarters largely related to its derivatives portfolio, said in May it changed its derivatives trading strategy.

The company's derivatives positions are largely related to a retail insurance business called Brighthouse Financial, which the company is spinning off and is scheduled to start trading as a separate company on Aug. 7.

MetLife's net investment income rose 1.5 percent to $4.96 billion as it gained from higher interest rates, while total operating revenue jumped 13.1 percent to $17.25 billion.

However, No. 2 U.S. life insurer Prudential Financial <PRU.N> reported a steep drop in quarterly profit as it recorded a $679 million charge.

(Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)