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Insurer Travelers profit falls as costs from severe storms bite

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Dow Jones Industrial Average stock market index component Travelers Companies is seen in Los Angeles, California, United States, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
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(Reuters) -Travelers Companies Inc on Wednesday reported a fall in quarterly profit, but announced an additional $5 billion share buyback plan that sent the shares of the property and casualty insurer up 5%.

The company has $1.61 billion left over from its previous share buyback program. 

Core income of the New York-based company, often seen as a bellwether for the insurance sector as it typically reports before industry peers, fell 6% to $970 million, or $4.11 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31.

Severe storms in parts of the United States pushed up the insurer’s catastrophe losses net of reinsurance to $535 million from $160 million a year earlier.

Global insured losses were anticipated to reach at least $15 billion in the quarter, insurance broker Aon (NYSE:AON) said in a report.

Apart from the devastating earthquake in Turkey, insured losses in excess of $3 billion were also expected from the outbreak of storm activity in the United States on March 1-3, Aon said.

The company reported a combined ratio of 95.4%, compared with 91.3% a year earlier. A ratio below 100% means the insurer earned more in premiums than it paid out in claims.

Travelers (NYSE:TRV)’ bond and specialty insurance segment’s underlying combined ratio increased 3.9 points, mainly driven by losses related to the disruption in the banking sector and a higher expense ratio.

Two U.S. lenders crumbled after a flight of deposits spiraled out of control last month, sparking a global crisis that shook investor confidence in the banking industry and rattled markets.

The turbulence has since subsided after intervention by regulators, but analysts have warned the banking industry will suffer long-term repercussions.

Travelers’ profit was helped by a 4% rise in net investment income to $663 million.

The company posted net written premiums growth of 12% to $9.4 billion in the quarter.

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