UPDATE 2-Travelers profit misses on higher catastrophe losses

(Compares with analysts' estimate, adds share movement)

April 24 (Reuters) - Insurer Travelers Cos Inc's quarterly profit missed analysts' estimates on Tuesday due to a rise in catastrophe losses and lower investment income.

Shares of the Dow component were down 2.5 percent premarket.

On a core basis, the New York-based company earned $2.46 per share, missing analysts' average estimate of $2.68, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Travelers, which is seen as a bellwether for the insurance sector, said catastrophe losses, net of reinsurance, widened 2 percent to $354 million in the first quarter.

The company blamed winter storms in the eastern United States, a wind and hail storm in the southern United States and mudslides in California for the rise.

Net investment income fell 1 percent to $603 million, due to lower private equity returns compared with a year earlier, the company said.

However, income tax expenses at the firm fell 21.3 percent, primarily driven by lower U.S. corporate income tax rate, while underwriting gains rose 22.3 percent to $258 million.

Net written premiums rose 5 percent to $6.82 billion.

Net income rose to $669 million, or $2.42 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31 from $617 million, or $2.17 per share, a year earlier.

The company reported a combined ratio of 95.5 percent, compared with 96 percent a year earlier. A ratio below 100 percent means an insurer earns more in premiums than it pays out in claims.

Total revenue rose 5 percent to $7.29 billion. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)