Banking & Finance

Counter-Intuitive: Insurance Stocks Rising After Hurricane (ALL, TRV, CB, HIG, BRK-B, RE, PRE, CRD-B)

Any time a hurricane hits, it can cause billions of dollars in damage to homes, cars, businesses, and other properties.  The estimates for Hurricane Irene were growing higher and higher last week for what the total economic damage was going to be as the Hurricane strafed the Eastern Seaboard.  As you know by now, Hurricane Irene hit North Carolina the hardest but it failed to regain enough strength to cause the damage to New York City and other areas up the coast that many were bracing for.  We have seen too many estimates of damages from Irene, but even the highest is far lower than the consensus was expecting before the storm hit.

What was bad news for insurance and reinsurance stocks last week is suddenly good news this week.  The insurance losses also appear to be low enough that most of the big reinsurance players appear to be escaping Irene’s liabilities either unscathed or only with a small amount.

Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) and The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TRV) have exposure in the areas around North Carolina, where the brunt of the hurricane force hit.  They both also had exposure further up the coast. Travelers is now up 3.4% at $49.97 and Allstate is up 4.5% at $25.32.

The Chubb Corporation (NYSE: CB) has exposure in New York and on north throughout southern New England and its shares are up 3.7% at $61.62 on the day.  Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (NYSE: HIG) is also up over 4% at $18.00 this morning.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-B) would have had exposure from insurance and/or reinsurance losses… This is being treated as lower now in liabilities and shares are up 2.5% at $71.72 so far on the news.  Everest Re Group Ltd. (NYSE: RE) is up 3.6% at $79.96 and PartnerRe Ltd. (NYSE: PRE) is up 3.7% at $56.40.

The surprise is actually in Crawford & Company (NYSE: CRD-B).  The company had a near-40% gain last week as it provides claims management solutions to insurance companies and self-insured entities.  Think of this as an employment clearing house for insurance claims adjusters.  This one is up again by more than 2% at $7.08, but after last week’s huge gain it would be one we would view a bit more cautiously.

This is one of those situations where less-bad news is good news.

JON C. OGG