Analysts had on average seen business operating profit at $3.28 billion, according to a company-compiled consensus forecast.
Insurers are facing weak investment performance from market falls due to the war in Ukraine and inflationary pressures are hitting their customers' wallets.
However, rising premiums have helped commercial insurance divisions.
Zurich's property and casualty business posted a first-half combined ratio - a measure of profitability - of 91.9%, a record level, thanks to higher prices and lower natural catastrophe and weather claims.
Rival Allianz's earnings last week missed forecasts, though AXA did better than expected, boosted by health insurance sales.
Zurich, Europe's fifth largest insurer, said it was on track to beat all its targets.
The group also announced on Thursday plans for a 1.8 billion Swiss franc ($1.91 billion) share buyback, to start in the coming months, to offset an expected earnings dilution from the agreed sale of the Germany life back book.
($1 = 0.9445 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan, editing by Kirsti Knolle)