Travelers' shares tank the most in 8 years on poor earnings, taking 70 points off the Dow

  • Shares of the insurer drop on the back of weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings.
  • Travelers' decline shaves off about 70 points from the Dow, which flops around the flatline as Wall Street grapples with a deluge of corporate earnings results.
  • Travelers' earnings suffer in large part because the company set aside more than $290 million in reserves for lawsuits.

Shares of Travelers dropped more than 6% after the insurer reported weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings. The stock was on pace for its biggest one-day drop since Aug. 8, 2011, when it fell 7.6%.

Travelers' decline shaved off about 70 points from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which flopped around the flatline for most of the morning as Wall Street grappled with a deluge of corporate earnings results. Excluding Travelers' decline, the Dow would be up more than 100 points.

Travelers posted third-quarter earnings of $1.43 per share, well below a Refinitiv estimate of $2.35 per share. Travelers' earnings suffered in large part because the company set aside more than $290 million in reserves for lawsuits. The reserves were driven by a $220 million asbestos charge, higher general liability and commercial auto losses.

"We believe most investors expected reserve development for asbestos and commercial auto lines of business, but the commentary around the difficult tort environment spreading to general liability is concerning," said Sandler O'Neill analyst Paul Newsome in a note.

Newsome noted, however, that price increases remain strong for the company. "The question comes down to whether the price increases taken will be enough to improve the underlying underwriting margin into 2020."

Travelers was one of just a few companies posting a weaker-than-forecast on Tuesday, but the stock had an outsized influence on the Dow given the index's price-weighted construction.

— CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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