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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Cincinnati Financial, National General, State Auto, Arthur J. and eHealth

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL –December 20, 2018 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Cincinnati Financial Corp. (CINF - Free Report) , National General Holdings Corp. (NGHC - Free Report) , State Auto Financial Corp. (STFC - Free Report) , Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (AJG - Free Report) and eHealth, Inc. (EHTH - Free Report) .

Here are highlights from Wednesday’s Analyst Blog:

5 Insurance Stocks Set to Keep the Winning Streak Alive in 2019

Though the insurance space has been battered by catastrophic activities, occasional breathers helped industry players outperform the broader market. The industry benefited from an improving rate environment, prudent underwriting standards and sturdy capital.  These should also benefit the industry in 2019.

A rising rate environment is a boon for the insurance industry as the players invest a portion of the premiums collected. A better rate of interest increases net investment income, which is an important component of insurers’ top line.  

Strengthening of the economy, strong labor market, declining employment and inflation reaching targeted 2% induced the Federal Reserve to raise interest rate consistently. The Fed has also indicated three rate increases for 2019.

In its September FOMC meeting, the Fed estimated GDP to be 2.5% for 2019. An expanding economy should help increase insured exposures.

Though catastrophe activities have weighed on property and casualty insurers’ profitability, the same helped them improve pricing. After witnessing 19 back-to-back quarters of soft pricing market, insurers started to increase prices from the fourth quarter of 2017  

Per excerpts from Insurance Marketplace Realities 2019 by Willis Towers Watson, rates are expected to increase in low single-digit to low double-digit range across most insurance lines in 2019, except for U.S. workers compensation and international liability programs.

Improvement in pricing should drive premiums higher and support the company in payment of claims. Property and casualty insurers are also taking reinsurance covers to safeguard their profits.

Following the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the tax rate dropped to 21% from 35% effective January 2017. Companies across the board largely benefited from lower tax and the same should continue to boost the bottom line in 2019.

Though the insurance industry underperformed the Zacks S&P 500 composite, it has fared better than its sector year to date. The insurance industry decreased 9.5% while the Finance sector declined 14% and the Zacks S&P 500 composite lost 4.8%.

Adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), cognitive intelligence (CI) or blockchain should help insurers curb operational costs. Insurers thus are expected to continue making investment in technological platforms.

The insurance industry boasts a sturdy capital level. This has been enabling it to pursue strategic mergers and acquisitions. As the inorganic mode of growth boosts scale and capabilities, insurers are eyeing technology platforms.    

Solid Picks for 2019

Banking on operational efficiency and favorable macro backdrop, we have zeroed in on five insurers with market capitalization of more than $500 million that are well poised to keep the growth momentum alive in 2019. These stocks carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or #2 (Buy) and have seen estimates move north for 2019. Also, these have fared better than both the broader market as well as Zacks S&P 500 composite year to date.

Cincinnati Financial Corp. provides property casualty insurance products in the United States has a market cap of $12.5 billion. The Zacks Rank #2 insurer has witnessed 10% rise in estimates in the past 60 days.

Shares of the company have gained 2.5% year to date against the Zacks S&P 500 composite and industry’s decrease.

National General Holdings Corp., a specialty personal lines insurance holding company providing various insurance products and services in the United States, has a market capitalization of more than $2.6 billion. The company sports a Zacks Rank #1 and has witnessed positive estimate revision of 4.4% in the past 60 days.

Shares of the company have rallied 20% year to date against the Zacks S&P 500 composite and industry’s decrease.

With a market capitalization of $1.5 billion, State Auto Financial Corp. engages in writing personal, business, and specialty insurance products. The Zacks Rank #1 company has witnessed positive estimate revision of 4.4% in the past 60 days.

Shares of the company have gained 17% year to date against the Zacks S&P 500 composite and industry’s decrease.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. provides insurance brokerage, consulting, and third-party claims settlement and administration services to entities in the United States and internationally. With a market capitalization of $13.4 billion, the stock carries a Zacks Rank #2. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2019 has moved up by a cent in the past 60 days.

Shares of the company have gained 15.1% year to date, outperforming the industry. However, the Zacks S&P 500 composite has declined in the same time frame.

eHealth, Inc. provides private online health insurance exchange services to individuals, families, and small businesses in the United States and China and has a market capitalization of about $0.7 billion. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2019 has moved 8.9% north in the past 60 days.

Shares of the company have surged 98.1% year to date, outperforming the industry. However,  the Zacks S&P 500 composite has declined in the same time frame.

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 >>

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.



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