Insured losses from Japan quake could hit $35 billion

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - This week's earthquake in Japan could lead to insured losses of nearly $35 billion, risk modeling company AIR Worldwide said.

That is nearly as much as the entire worldwide catastrophe loss to the global insurance industry in 2010, and could be the triggering event that forces higher prices in the insurance market after years of declines.

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AIR said its loss estimate range was $14.5 billion to $34.6 billion. That was based on a range of 1.2 trillion yen to 2.8 trillion yen, converted at 81.85 yen to the dollar.

The firm cautioned the estimate was preliminary, and it has said its models do not factor in potential losses from nuclear damage.

At the upper end of the range, this temblor will go down by far as the costliest earthquake in modern history in terms of insured losses.

Of all catastrophes since 1970, adjusted for inflation, it would rank as the second costliest behind Hurricane Katrina.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz in New York and Rhys Jones in London; Editing by Louise Heavens)