Insurance companies hit hard by tornadoes

Insurance files

JEREMY HOBSON: Well if you're one of the many people in this country paying a mortgage that's worth more than your house -- consider yourself lucky. At least your house is still standing. It hasn't been swept up by a tornado. This month is likely to set a record for the most tornadoes in a single month.

Juli Niemann is an analyst with Smith Moore and Company and she joins us live, as always, from St. Louis. Good morning Juli.

JULI NIEMANN: Good morning Jeremy.

HOBSON: Well tell us what all these tornadoes mean for the insurance companies.

NIEMANN: Well, if we hate bad weather, the property and casualty companies really hate it. This perfect storm started about 2008, and it was epic -- financial disasters, weather disasters. In the coastal areas you've got hurricane, rain, mudslides -- in the west, fire and drought. Central and east -- windstorms, tornadoes, hail, flooding. Now the insurance companies make money by collecting premiums and investing in financial markets. Neither is working. You've got the premiums flat due to the recession. Businesses closed, homeowners lost houses. Investing -- the worst bear market in modern history, interest rates near zero. And at the same time, claims are escalating. So you've got a profit crush going on here.

HOBSON: So what are the insurance companies to do?

NIEMANN: Well, it's going to be merger for survival here. There's going to going to be less competition. That means we're going to see the next storm for consumers is going to be higher premiums, less coverage. Batten down the hatches.

HOBSON: And Juli -- you're in St. Louis which had quite a storm last Friday -- everything okay at the Niemann house?

NIEMANN: Well, the last time we had this amount of flooding, it was "build an ark" and I think everybody's getting it out again.

HOBSON: Oh boy. Juli Niemann, analyst with Smith Moore and Company, thanks so much.

NIEMANN: You bet.

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