So far, property and casualty insurance companies Chubb (NYSE: CB ) and Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) have reported 2012 fourth-quarter earnings, and things didn't look bad at all, considering the huge headwind that took the form of last autumn's Superstorm Sandy. Both companies beat on earnings estimates, boding well for fellow insurer Allstate (NYSE: ALL ) , which reports later this week.
In addition to how Sandy's landfall affected the big insurer, investors will want to be on the lookout for a couple of other metrics, too, such as a net increase in written premiums, as well as premium rate increases that may be planned for the current year.
Sandy buffeted insurers in the fourth quarter
Not only was this storm a real doozy, leaving much destruction in its wake, but governors in the hard-hit Northeastern states of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey had the storm reclassified as a tropical storm, potentially subjecting the insurers to a slew of additional claims.
Both Chubb and Travelers seemed to weather that pretty well, possibly due to the fact that much of the damage was because of flooding rather than wind, the former being covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. Chubb reported pre-tax Sandy-related expenses of $882 million, and Travelers claimed $669 million in after-tax losses tied to that storm.
What is Allstate's estimate for Sandy's impact? The insurer had previously estimated its catastrophic losses for October 2012 as $1.08 billion, pre-tax and net of reinsurance. The company identified Sandy as the worst of five catastrophic events that month, so that storm's amount should be less than that total. Originally, Allstate had reported that losses would be much higher -- around $150 million or so -- so the lower figure was a relief.
Good news on premiums?
Little movement was seen in net written premiums for Chubb, which reported its total decreased by 2%, and Travelers, which saw a 2% hike in those numbers. As for increasing premium costs for customers, Travelers announced a planned rate increase in late 2011, and Chubb's third-quarter report noted that the insurer had been able to increase premiums in all three of its business sections.
Allstate also bumped up rates in several states last year, and introduced a new rooftop policy in Oklahoma and Kansas, which limits the company's liability. Superstorm Sandy might prompt another rate surge this year, so investors should be on the lookout for any inferences to that effect in the upcoming earnings report.
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