U.S. Markets open in 6 hrs 1 mins

Sector Snap: $2B storm losses weigh insurer stocks

NEW YORK (AP) -- Major insurance companies were among the hardest hit stocks as the broader markets fell Tuesday, after a report indicated that the killer tornadoes and severe storms that ravaged the U.S. may cause up to $2 billion in insured losses.

An estimated 30 tornadoes with winds of more than 110 mph ripped through the Midwest and South on Friday, killing at least 40 people. Snow followed in several of the hardest hit states, adding difficulty to the recovery efforts.

All told, more than 150 tornadoes touched down, mainly in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Alabama, since Feb. 28, in what the Monday report by the risk modeling firm Eqecat Inc. called, "An unusually strong extra-tropical cyclone spawning a months-worth of tornadoes in two days."

There have been 272 tornadoes, blamed for 49 deaths, so far this year. That's well above average, Eqecat said.

Shares of American International Group Inc. fell $1.20, or 4percent, to $29.19 in midday trading, while Metlife Inc.'s stock declined $1.16, or 3 percent, to $37.51.

Hartford Financial Services shed 78 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $19.35.

Shares of the Travelers Cos. dropped $1.27, or 2.2 percent, to $57.23, while The Progressive Corp. gave up 29 cents, to $21.50.

Allstate Corp. lost 26 cents to $31.29.

The decline in the broader U.S. stock market Tuesday also hurt the sector. The Dow Jones industrial average fell was down 1.3 percent while the Standard & Poor's 500 was off 1.4 percent at midday. If stocks don't recover, the markets could be eyeing the biggest declines for a trading day so far this year, surpassing the 159-point drop on Jan. 13. This matters to insurance companies, because they help pay out their policies by investing in the stock market.