Insurance industry impact from Hurricane Hermine is 'modest'

STEINHATCHEE, Fl. --Lynne Garrett speaks to loved ones on the phone as she surveys damage outside her home after Hurricane Hermine made landfall last week. [Getty Images]
STEINHATCHEE, Fl. --Lynne Garrett speaks to loved ones on the phone as she surveys damage outside her home after Hurricane Hermine made landfall last week. [Getty Images]
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Hurricane Hermine, the first hurricane to strike Florida in 11 years, will have only a "modest" impact on the property insurance industry and catastrophe bond markets, Fitch Ratings projected Wednesday.

Karen Clark & Co., in a preliminary report last Friday estimated insured losses from the storm that hit Florida last week will approach $500 million, with economic damage of around $1 billion. Fitch said that level would be manageable for the industry, but could depress third-quarter earnings for primary writers in Florida and other Southeast states.

For comparison, Florida suffered insured damages of $24 billion (in 2016 dollars) for 1992's Hurricane Andrew, and four of the multibillion-dollar storms between 2004-2005 rank among the 10 costliest in Florida's history.

The five companies with the largest exposure to hurricane damage are Universal Insurance Holding Group, Tower Hill, State Farm Mutual, state-run Citizens Property Insurance and Federated National Insurance.

The report from Fitch noted how much Florida's property insurance has changed since 2005's Hurricane Wilma, the last hurricane to make landfall in the state.

A decade ago, Citizens Property was the biggest insurer, meaning all property owners in Florida regardless of their insurance carrier were at risk of being assessed if Citizens could not cover claims from a major hurricane. Today, smaller Florida-based homeowners insurance companies cover 60 percent of the market.

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