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Riding on a steady growth momentum, shares of Reinsurance Group of America Inc. (RGA - Analyst Report) hit its 52-week high at $77.11 on Dec 23.

Particularly, this global life and health reinsurer’s shares rose about 9.7% since the company reported its third-quarter 2013 results at the end of October with a positive earnings surprise of 17.6%. The improved momentum of this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock is driven by improved underwriting standards coupled with competitive pricing.

Yesterday’s closing price represents a strong one-year return of about 43.4% against a return of 27.8% clocked by the S&P 500 index. Average volume of shares traded over the last three months stands at approximately 375.8K.

On Oct 28, Reinsurance Group reported third-quarter 2013 operating earnings per share of $2.14, modestly beating both the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.82 and the year-ago quarter earnings of $1.35.

Results reflected higher consolidated premiums (up 6% over the prior-year quarter) and other revenues, partially offset by reduced investment returns. However, lower total expense (down 2.6%) and share count boosted results.

Overall, Reinsurance Group’s capital position remains one of the sturdiest in the industry, cushioned by an improving operational mix across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia Pacific. This is reflected by the company’s healthy capital deployment and ratings along with a strong annualized return on equity (ROE) growth of 13% at the end of Sep 2013.

Further, valuation looks reasonable for Reinsurance Group. The shares are trading at about 21% premium to the peer group average on a forward price-to-earnings basis and about 12% discount on a price-to-book basis. While return on equity of 6.0% stood below the peer group average, return on assets of 1.0% was pegged fairly above the same benchmark. Even the estimated long-term earnings growth is pegged at 6.9%, lower than the peer group average of 9.7%.

Along with Reinsurance Group, other stocks that warrant a look in the life insurance sector include Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC - Analyst Report), American Equity Investment Life Holding Co. (AEL - Snapshot Report) and Primerica Inc. (PRI - Snapshot Report). All these stocks carry the same Zacks Rank as Reinsurance Group.

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