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Shares of property and casualty insurer Assurant Inc. (AIZ - Analyst Report) hit a 52-week high of $69.12 on Mar 10, 2014.

The momentum in the stock was driven by an impressive fourth-quarter earnings beat. The company reported earnings of $1.42 per share, a penny ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Better-than-expected earnings resulted from higher earned premium and fees in the company’s Specialty Property and Solutions business. A lower share count owing to share repurchases also boosted the bottom line. The company posted positive earnings surprises in three of the last four reported quarters with an average beat of 2.40%.

In 2014, Assurant is expected to benefit from steps taken to improve efficiency and reduce expenses.

Assurant is also trying to offset headwinds (like decline in placement rates, lower mortgage originations and a shrinking real estate owned book) in its Specialty Property business by diversifying its revenue streams with the acquisition of Field Asset Services in fourth-quarter 2013.

Assurant’s focus on augmenting its presence in Latin America through the recent announcement to acquire Ike Asistencia is also expected to create synergies in the company’s Solutions business in 2014. Additionally, the acquisition of Life Style Services Group in Europe will aid revenue growth from the region.

Moreover, within its Employee Benefits segment, Assurant is trying to offset pressure from the employer-paid business by focusing more on enhancing its voluntary line of business.

Additionally, other positives like a strong capital profile with moderate leverage ratio, consistent cash flows and a disciplined capital management strategy look promising.

Assurant presently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Better-ranked stocks like Old Republic International Corp. (ORI - Snapshot Report) with a Zacks Rank #1(Strong Buy), and FBL Financial Group Inc. (FFG - Snapshot Report) and Kemper Corporation (KMPR - Snapshot Report) with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), are worth considering.
 

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