Insurers Fall, Led by Universal, on Florida Hurricane Risk

  • Florida-based insurer has dropped more than 20% this week
  • Hurricane Matthew has maximum sustained winds near 140 MPH

Hurricane Matthew's Impact Already Felt in Oil Markets

U.S. property-casualty insurers fell for a third time in four days as Hurricane Matthew approached Florida, with Universal Insurance Holdings Inc. dropping the most since 2015 because of its concentration in the state.

Universal tumbled $2.72, or 12 percent, to $19.51 at 4:02 p.m. in New York. The company has plunged more than 20 percent this week, wiping out gains for the year.

Matthew has maximum sustained winds of near 140 miles (220 kilometers) per hour, and hurricane conditions are expected to reach Florida as soon as Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 2 p.m. New York time. Universal is the largest home insurer in Florida and gained market share as bigger companies such as Allstate Corp. scaled back in the state to reduce risk.

“Because of our concentration in Florida, and in particular in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, we are exposed to hurricanes and windstorms,” the Fort Lauderdale-based company says in the “Risk Factors” section of its annual report.

Allstate slipped 0.1 percent and Progressive Corp. fell 0.6 percent. Those companies spread their risks over more states. American International Group Inc., which also has substantial operations outside the U.S., climbed 0.1 percent. The S&P 500 Property & Casualty Insurance Index is down 2.1 percent this week.

Brokers Advance

Insurance brokers advanced. The middlemen collect fees for helping clients buy coverage and are poised to benefit from increased demand for policies after the storm, according to Keefe Bruyette & Woods. Marsh & McLennan Cos., the largest broker, advanced 0.1 percent, while No. 2 Aon Plc rallied 1.3 percent. Brown & Brown Inc., the broker based in Daytona Beach, Florida, jumped 1.8 percent, the most since July.

Landfall is predicted between West Palm Beach and St. Augustine early Friday, according to RMS, a risk-modeling firm.

“Winds will likely approach and possibly exceed hurricane force across much of this stretch of coastline, with localized flooding from storm surge, and heavy rainfall,” RMS said in a note.

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