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) -- Losses for the insurance industry should be "material, but manageable" from Hurricane Irene, according to commentary from Fitch Ratings on Wednesday.

The ratings agency cited data from catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, which puts the estimated insured losses from the storm, which left at least 40 dead and knocked out power for millions along the Eastern seaboard, at between $3 billion and $6 billion.

"If actual losses from Hurricane Irene come in within current ranges, primary insurers will bear most of the loss," said Brian Schneider, senior director at Fitch, in a


. "However, as incurred losses rise, the chances of losses being allocated to the reinsurance industry increase."

Fitch said it's projecting 2011 to be the highest catastrophe loss year since 2008 for the insurance industry because of "inordinate losses from thunderstorm and tornado losses in the first half of the year" but it doesn't see Irene's impact as a "game-changer" for the sector.

As a result, the firm isn't expecting material ratings changes for any insurers because of Irene but it did caution that the group remains vulnerable given that hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean has three months to go and that there will be likely an earnings impact from Irene.

"Insurers most likely to be affected by the storm include those companies who emphasize homeowners and commercial multiperil property insurance," said Schneider. "Market share in these lines is concentrated in organizations that tend to have larger capital bases and adequate liquidity."

Among the publicly traded insurers, shares of



were up less than 1% to $26.27 in morning trades;

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Written by Michael Baron in New York.

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