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On Apr 5, 2013, Zacks Investment Research upgraded CNO Financial Group Inc. (CNO - Analyst Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

CNO Financial has delivered positive earnings surprises in the last 4 quarters with an average beat of 17.58%. Moreover, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the first quarter for 2013 stands at 20 cents per share, up 36% year over year. This multi-line insurance company is expected to declare its first-quarter earnings after the closing bell on Apr 24.

The company follows an efficient capital deployment policy. On Mar 28, CNO Financial announced that it completed a tender offer to repurchase $59.3 million 7% convertible senior debentures at a premium price of $125.9 million. The company expects to repurchase another $125–$175 million in 2013, taking the total securities buyback during the year to $250–$350 million. Improved credit ratings, strong investment portfolio and improved debt maturity profile are the other positives.

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 over the past 60 days, leading to a 6.2% increase in the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Even the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2014 increased 7.2% over the past 60 days to $1.19. This represents a year-over-year increase of 15.79%.

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 Cigna Corp. (CI - Analyst Report) – Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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