Massive Losses Likely From Hurricane Sandy

Morning Business Memo

The multi-billion dollar insurance losses from Hurricane Sandy could be larger than anyone expected before the massive storm blew ashore. It may take weeks to assess the damage from widespread flooding and destruction in the east. More than ten states have been directly affected. The National Flood Insurance Program will step in to pay for some of the damage. Preliminary estimates are that Sandy will be a lot more expensive than last year's Hurricane Irene, which according to one finding cost nearly $16 billion. The worst damage came from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It cost $108 billion and caused 1,200 deaths.

Stock trading is closed for a second straight day. Bond trading will also be closed. It is the first time since 1888 that the exchange will have been closed for two consecutive days because of weather.

Transportation is at a standstill in the Northeast. Airlines grounded thousands more flights today, stranding travelers as far away as Europe and Asia. Amtrak says it's canceled all service today in the Northeast because of high winds and heavy rains. Cargo container operations were suspended in the normally busy ports of New York and northern New Jersey.

Many large companies have postponed the release of their quarterly earnings reports. Before the approach of Hurricane Sandy the Conference Board delayed the release of its October Consumer Confidence survey. The Labor Department says it still plans to release the monthly jobs survey on Friday. That will be the last employment report before next week's election.

Japanese cars are still the most reliable brands on the road, according to Consumer Reports. Toyota's Scion, Lexus and Toyota brands took the top three spots and the Toyota Prius C, a subcompact hybrid, got the best overall score in the magazine's annual reliability survey. Mazda, Subaru, Honda and Acura were close behind. The rankings attempt to predict the reliability of 2013 model-year vehicles based on surveys of Consumer Reports' readers. This year, 800,000 people submitted information on 1.2 million vehicles from the 2010 to 2012 model years.

The rankings are important for auto companies, since Americans frequently cite Consumer Reports as a main source of car-buying advice. Ford and Lincoln, once top performers, plummeted to the bottom of this year's rankings because of persistent problems with touch screens and bumpy transmissions. Ford was also hurt because three normally reliable models - the Ford Escape, Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ - are all new for 2013, so Consumer Reports couldn't predict their reliability. Also near the bottom were Chrysler Group's Chrysler, Dodge and Ram brands, which have been getting a fast makeover since partnering with Italy's Fiat three years ago. Consumer Reports says models with more features and more powerful engines, like the V-8 versions of the Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee - had the most issues. The best-performing U.S. brand was Cadillac, from General Motors.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio