U.S. insurer Travelers posts record profit on investment returns

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Jan 20 (Reuters) - Property and casualty insurer Travelers Cos Inc reported a record quarterly profit on Thursday as higher returns from its investments cushioned the hit from a rise in catastrophe-related claims.

The New York-based company, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index (.DJI), is seen as a bellwether for the insurance sector as it typically reports before its peers.

The insurer said it earned a core income of $1.29 billion, or $5.20 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with $1.26 billion, or $4.91 per share, a year earlier.

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Analysts on average had expected a profit of $3.86 per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Travelers' pre-tax net investment income jumped 10% to $743 million, driven by higher returns on its private equity and real estate partnership.

Its net written premiums rose 10% to $7.9 billion.

Travelers said the catastrophe losses it incurred in the quarter mainly stemmed from tornado activity in Kentucky, windstorms in multiple U.S. states and a wildfire in Colorado.

Devastation from tornadoes that slammed parts of the United States in December are expected to push the insurance industry's 2021 bill for weather-related claims well above the predicted $105 billion, industry experts have said. read more

Travelers reported a combined ratio of 88%, compared with 86.7% a year earlier. A ratio below 100% means the insurer earned more in premiums than it paid out in claims.

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Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni

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