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Fed Hikes Rate Fourth Time This Year: 6 Solid Insurance Picks

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As widely expected, the Federal Reserve has increased interest rate again this year. This marks the fourth rate hike in 2018. With the latest raise of one-quarter percentage points at the last held FOMC meeting, the interest rate now stands at 2.5%. However, Fed officials now project two raises in 2019, down from the earlier expectation of three hikes.

Major indexes, namely S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow Jones Industrial Average declined in yesterday’s trading session.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell stated “we have seen developments that may signal some softening... In early 2018, we saw a rising trajectory for growth. Today, we see growth moderating ahead."

Fed officials now expect two hikes in 2019 to take the interest rate to 2.9%, down from 3.1% as projected in its September FOMC meeting. Also, interest rate for each year has been revised down.  For both 2020 and 2021, the rate is now projected to be 3.1%, down from 3.4% expected earlier. The same should be 2.8% over the long haul, down from 3% predicted at the meeting held in September.

The Fed also provided an updated view on unemployment.  Fed officials still expect the unemployment rate at 3.7% for 2018 and 3.5% for 2019. However, for 2020, unemployment is expected to increase a bit to 3.8% (up from 3.5% projected at September FOMC meeting) and 3.8% in 2021 (up from 3.7%). Over the longer term, unemployment rate is estimated to be 4.5%.

A spurt in employment shows average increase of 0.17 million in jobs over the past three months. Per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rate was 3.7% in November for the third month in a row.

The Fed now estimates GDP to rise 3% in 2018 and 2.3% for 2019. However, these are down from 3.1% and 2.5%, respectively projected in the September meeting. Expectations for 2020 and 2021 remain consistent with September projections of 2% and 1.8%, respectively. Over the longer term, GDP is expected to improve 2.9%, up from 2.8% expected earlier.

Inflation is expected to be about 1.9% in 2019 and remain 2% in 2020 and 2021.

Although an improving rate environment comes as good news for some, for others, it’s just the opposite. While companies can have more at their disposal, borrowers will feel the pinch as they have to pay more interest. Capital intensive industries will have to bear the rising cost of capital. Meanwhile, banks and insurers will continue to be major beneficiaries of a rising rate environment because of their sensitivity to interest rates.

Courtesy of the progressing rate environment, investment income — an important component of insurers’ top line — is also exhibiting an upward trend. This apart, tax rate overhaul, advancing economy, encouraging employment data and stringent underwriting standards infuse investors’ confidence in the stock.

4 Best Stocks in the Bracket

Amid an improving macro backdrop, investors always eagerly look to add stocks with strong fundamentals and potential to generate better yields.

It’s an intimidating task to zero in on a string of underpriced stocks with high-growth offerings. The Zacks Stock Screener makes this work relatively simpler. The stocks also carry a favorable Value Score and Growth Score of A or B.

Value Score helps investors identify undervalued stocks. This deviation from their fair value is what creates an exceptional upside opportunity. Growth Score analyzes a company’s growth prospects and also evaluates its corporate financial statements.

Los Angeles, CA-based Mercury General Corporation (MCY - Free Report) provides financial services. The stock has a Value Score of B and a Growth Score of A. It sports a Zacks Rank # 1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Shares have lost 1.3% year to date, narrower than the industry’s decline of 4.2%.

New York, NY-based National General Holdings Corp. (NGHC - Free Report) , a specialty personal lines insurance holding company providing various insurance products and services in the United States, sports a Zacks Rank #1. The stock has a Value Score of A and a Growth Score of B.

Its shares have rallied 19.5% against the industry’s decline of 4.2% year to date.

Duluth, GA-based Primerica, Inc. (PRI - Free Report) distributes financial products to middle income households in the United States and Canada. The stock has a Value Score and a Growth Score of A. It carries a Zacks Rank of 2.

Shares have lost 2.6% compared with the industry’s decline of 28.4% year to date.

Milwaukee, WI-based MGIC Investment Corporation (MTG - Free Report) provides private mortgage insurance and ancillary services to lenders and government sponsored entities in the United States. The stock has a Value Score of A and a Growth Score of B. It carries a Zacks Rank of 2.

Shares have lost 29% compared with the industry’s decline of 23.4% year to date.

Chicago, IL-based Old Republic International Corporation (ORI - Free Report) engages in the insurance underwriting and related services business primarily in the United States and Canada. The stock has a Value Score of A and a Growth Score of B. It carries a Zacks Rank of 2.

Shares have lost 3% compared with the industry’s decline of 23.4% year to date.

Domiciled in Philadelphia, PA, Radian Group Inc. (RDN - Free Report) provides mortgage and real estate products and services in the United States. The stock carries a robust Value Score of A and a Growth Score of B. The company holds a Zacks Rank of 2.

Shares of the company have lost 23.8% compared with the industry’s decrease of 23.4%.

In addition to the stocks discussed above, would you like to know about our 10 top tickers to buy and hold for the entirety of 2019?

These 10 are painstakingly handpicked from over 4,000 companies covered by the Zacks Rank. They are our primary picks poised to outperform in the year ahead. Be among the first to see the new Zacks Top 10 Stocks >>