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Sandy Unlikely To Damage US Economy, Analysts Say

CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Airlines canceled thousands of flights and stranded travelers. Insurers braced for damages of up to $5 billion. Retailers expected shrunken sales.

Hurricane Sandy is causing disruptions for companies, travelers and consumers. But for the overall economy, damage from the storm will likely be limited. And any economic growth lost to the storm in the short run will likely be restored once reconstruction begins, analysts say.

Preliminary estimates are that damage will range between $10 billion and $20 billion. That could top last year's Hurricane Irene, which cost $15.8 billion.

If so, Hurricane Sandy would be among the 10 most costly hurricanes in U.S. history. But it would still be far below the worst â¿¿ Hurricane Katrina, which cost $108 billion and caused 1,200 deaths in 2005.

"Assuming the storm simply disrupts things for a few days and it doesn't do significant damage to infrastructure, then I don't think it will have a significant national impact," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said Monday.

The economic impact could be more severe if the storm damages a port or a major manufacturing facility such as an oil refinery, Zandi noted.

Here's how the storm has begun to affect areas of the economy:

â¿¿ Air travel in the Northeast is all but stopped for at least two days. Airlines canceled more than 10,000 flights for Monday and Tuesday from Washington to Boston. The disruptions spread across the nation and overseas, stranding passengers from Hong Kong to Europe. Carriers could suffer a short-term hit to earnings as they spend more to shuffle crews and planes.

â¿¿ The nation's major retailers are expected to lose billions of dollars, and the losses could extend into the crucial holiday shopping season. Sales at department stores, clothing chains, jewelers and other sellers of non-essential goods are expected to suffer the most.

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