September 11, 2017 / 11:38 PM / 2 years ago

Lenders, investors breathe easier as U.S. hurricane waters recede

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Financial institutions with exposure to U.S. properties hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are tempering their loss estimates, as the damage to homes and businesses has been far less severe than expected.

Late last week, before Irma hit Florida, reports that the vast majority of homeowners hit by Harvey had no flood insurance stoked fears about a wave of foreclosures and substantial losses for heavily exposed banks. Now that lenders have had a chance to survey the damage, they are not nearly as concerned.

Irma ranked as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes until it barreled into the Florida Keys on Sunday, and was downgraded to a tropical storm early on Monday.

Harvey, which hammered Louisiana and Texas in late August, was also downgraded to a tropical storm and lost steam as it moved inland.

“There will be some issues but relatively few compared to what I would have thought a week ago.” Texas Capital Bancshares Chief Executive Keith Cargill said at an investor conference hosted by Barclays on Monday.

Regions Financial Corporation, based in Birmingham, Alabama, with operations throughout the U.S. Southeast, estimated it could lose $10 million to $20 million out of $3.2 billion in total exposure to Hurricane Harvey, according to a financial filing early Monday. The bank has 25 branches in Houston.

Regions still has no estimates for Irma, which forced it to close 460 branches, but Chief Financial Officer David Turner said at the conference that estimates for past hurricanes had a history of being excessive.

The roads leading to downtown Atlanta are deserted as Hurricane Irma which had been downgraded to a tropical storm blows through in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Citing Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005, Turner said, “We originally thought our loss estimates were going to be around $100 million, and we lost less than $10 million.”

Shortly after Harvey hit, data firm CoreLogic estimated $18 billion to $27 billion of residential uninsured flood loss for affected counties. Those losses would be borne by banks, bondholders, government agencies and people who own their homes outright, analysts said.

Investors will have a better idea of whether those estimates prove too high when the largest U.S. consumer banks speak at the conference on Tuesday. Executives from Wells Fargo & Co, Bank of America Corp and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co are all scheduled to give presentations.

Reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Richard Chang

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