Shares of property insurers decline again on storm

Shares of property insurers fall more than broader market on costs from superstorm Sandy

Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- Shares of property insurers fell slightly more than the broader market on Wednesday as investors assessed the industry's costs to cover losses from Hurricane Sandy.

As stock trading resumed following a two-day closure due to the storm, risk-management experts estimated that insured losses from Sandy could range from $5 billion to $15 billion. Insurance losses are typically a fraction of the overall cost, and experts expect actual property damages from Sandy will dwarf those caused last year by Hurricane Irene.

Chubb Corp., Allstate Corp. and Travelers Cos. are the insurers most likely to suffer losses from Sandy, said Greg Locraft, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. Those companies claim a major share of the coverage in areas with heavy damages from Sandy, which hit densely populated areas of the East Coast, including New York City and New Jersey.

Shares of property insurers underperformed the broader market late last week in anticipation of the storm. Most of the stocks were slightly lagging again in midday trading Wednesday, when the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index was down 0.4 percent.

Among major property insurers, shares of Travelers were hit the hardest. The stock fell $1.05, or 1.5 percent, to $70.51.

Elsewhere in the sector, Chubb lost 59 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $77.37; Allstate fell 23 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $39.92; and American International Group Inc. declined 13 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $34.59.

Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway, whose insurance businesses include auto and home insurer Geico, fell 31 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $86.35.

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