- The insured losses for the St Jude's Day storm would have been significantly higher but for the accuracy in weather forecasting several days ahead of the storm's formation, according to Fitch Ratings.

The agency says initial insurance loss estimates ranging up to £500m will put additional pressure on UK insurers' already squeezed profit margins, but should be manageable for the sector.

Advancements in the accuracy of medium-range weather forecasting were highlighted by the predictions for Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), based in the UK, predicted a US landfall for that storm six days ahead of its arrival, and two days before other agencies' models made similar forecasts.

The ECMWF was also involved in predicting the St Jude Day storm.

The benefits of accurate medium-range weather forecasting for insurers mean a lower claims bill arising from major loss events. Policyholders have more time to protect their property from potential damage, while government agencies, utility firms and transport companies can make logistical arrangements to minimise disruption to power supplies and transport networks.

Fitch says: "While it remains too early to determine the breakdown of the St Jude's Day losses across the UK non-life sector, we believe personal household insurers are better placed than personal motor writers, to absorb losses.

"Statistics based on regulatory returns data show that the UK personal motor segment was already running a calendar year combined ratio of 103.7% in 2012, whereas the personal household account had an equivalent ratio of 93.0%.

"During 2013, technical profitability has been under further pressure for motor underwriters as motor rates have continued to soften. Rate softening for personal household underwriters has so far been mitigated by a relatively low loss burden.

"Overall we expect only modest increases in premium rates in loss-making lines over the foreseeable future. This should improve underwriting profitability, but better risk selection and claims management remain critical."

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