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On Mar 21, Zacks Investment Research upgraded CNO Financial Group Inc. (CNO - Analyst Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

CNO Financial has been witnessing rising earnings estimates on the back of strong fourth-quarter 2012 results. Moreover, this multi-line insurance company delivered positive earnings surprises in the last 4 quarters with an average beat of 17.58%.

On Feb 11, CNO Financial reported fourth-quarter 2012 adjusted operating earnings of 25 cents per share, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 23 cents. Results also surpassed 18 cents earned in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted operating income in the quarter was $60.0 million, up 18% from $51.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Apart from improved operating performance of most segments, better-than-expected call and prepayment income and favorable mortality in the universal life and traditional life businesses drove operating earnings.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for CNO Financial’s operating earnings in 2013 stands at $1.03 per share, up 48.7% over 2012. Most estimates were revised upward following the announcement of the strong fourth-quarter earnings, leading to a 6% increase in the Zacks Consensus Estimate over the past 60 days.

Further, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2014 surged 7.2% over the past 60 days. It currently stands at $1.19%, up 15.79% year over year.

Other Stocks to Consider

Other stocks in the insurance sector that are worth a look are AEGON N.V. (AEG - Snapshot Report) – Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), AXA Group (AXAHY) – Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and Assured Guaranty Ltd. (AGO - Snapshot Report) – Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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