Auto insurer Mercury General Corp. said its board authorized the repurchase of as much as $200 million of the company's stock after its share price fell more than 40%. Los Angeles-based Mercury General said it plans to finance the repurchase program--equal to about 8.4% of its market capitalization--with bonds, bank borrowings and internal funds. The announcement was widely anticipated on Wall Street. The company said the recent drop in its share price--sparked by a decline in its second-quarter premium growth--made its stock look more attractive than other potential investments. Mercury General is facing stiff competition in California, where it derived 92% of its second-quarter premiums, and its growth has slowed accordingly. Its shares rose $1 to close at $43.81 on the New York Stock Exchange.