Fitch: Insurers could withstand double the Sandy losses

Thu Nov 8, 2012 11:40am EST

* Fitch tested losses up to $40 bln

* Does not expect ratings impacts for insurers

Nov 8 (Reuters) - Property insurers have sufficient capital to withstand losses from superstorm Sandy that are twice what has been projected, even if that means a disaster on the order of Hurricane Katrina, Fitch Ratings said on Thursday.

As it stands, Sandy is expected to be the second-costliest catastrophe in American history, with disaster modeling companies projecting insured losses of up to $20 billion.

But Fitch tested even more severe scenarios, up to $40 billion, which would put Sandy on par with 2005's Katrina.

At that highest end, after factoring in recoveries from reinsurance companies, Fitch estimated insurers' net Sandy losses would eat up less than 5 percent of the industry's surplus.

Fitch also said that even in the worst-case scenario, insurers' underwriting losses this year would still be less than they were in 2011, when the industry suffered record-breaking claims from Asia-Pacific earthquakes and U.S. tornadoes.

"Even at the extreme $40 billion scenario, Fitch does not anticipate material rating changes for most individual U.S. property/casualty insurers," the agency said in its report.

Most financial analysts believe that Sandy will, at worst, be a drag on fourth-quarter earnings, given the surplus capital in the industry after relatively mild losses this year.

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