At the moment, insurance stocks are an interesting group for value investors looking for stocks to buy. All sectors of the financial sector fell, with several insurers recording lows of several years in recent months. Yet there is reason to believe that the group will outperform.
Interest rates are expected to rise, with recent comments from the Fed aside, and financial services and insurers generally win when this happens. Higher rates mean higher returns on the "float" of an insurance company – and more profit for shareholders.
Insurance stocks are also defensive – an attractive feature in a volatile market. And although the attention of investors, since the US elections, has focused on high-growth technologies and cyclical booming, there is one case where insurers have simply been forgotten. In a more cautious market, this should no longer be the case.
All in all, the insurance group looks intriguing. Investors can play on space through ETFs such as SPDR S & P Insurance ETF (NYSEArca:KIE). But these three insurance actions to buy should also be the subject of a long search.
Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG)
The case for Hartford Financial Services Group (NYSE:HIG) is reasonably simple. First, HIG shares are cheap and trade at less than 9 x the 2019 EPS estimates. Even in the context of a sector where multiples are generally small, this valuation seems far too cautious.
Hartford will also benefit from its imminent acquisition of The group of browsers (NASDAQ:NAVG), a marine insurer. With the 2020 BPA – boosted by a full year of financial data from the Navigators group – likely to save $ 5, HIG is trading at about 8 times earnings while still offering a dividend yield that could reach 3%. ;next year.
There are risks. First, Hartford's property and casualty business has recently benefited from a reduction in disaster costs, which could be reversed. The company's mutual fund business gives it exposure to equity markets – recently solicited. And the competition remains intense, which can put pressure on prices and revenues.
Still, with HIG reaching its lowest level in 30 months last month, most bad news is not announced. The boom in the sector as a whole and mergers and acquisitions are not. For the moment, HIG seems to be one of the best "buy the dip" candidates among the financiers.
The case for Chubb (NYSE:CB) is similar to that of HIG – with perhaps a lower risk and benefits. Like The Hartford, Chubb is a P & C insurer. Like HIG, the CB stock fell, registering a decline of more than 18% from the peaks of early 2018 and hitting a trough of several years late last year.
But Chubb is bigger – and could potentially take market share from smaller players like The Hartford. Chubb also has a long tradition of conservatism, which is reassuring since its price-to-book ratio is close to 1.1.
With a dividend yield of 2.3%, CB will not enrich investors overnight. But it's a great example of a fair price – and maybe a cheap price – for a great company. Chubb increases its dividend every year, generally increases its profits and should continue even if the big markets are attacking again. It's a nice combination of short and long-term outperformance.
Investors looking for more risk and higher potential gains in financial services and insurers should MetLife (NYSE:MEET). MetLife has struggled from the end of 2017. The company reported losing approximately 600,000 customers to whom pension payments were due, triggering investigations by state regulators.
A month later, the company had to delay the release of its results as it revealed significant weaknesses in internal controls. For an insurer, this type of error obviously raises warning signs: the MET action has unsurprisingly slipped into the news.
And the stock of MET has continued to slide for much of 2018. But the news has been better. The benefits, starting with a Q4 report that addressed at least some of the concerns, were solid. The issue of pensions seems largely resolved. A new CEO will bring a new look next year. At the same time, the shares of MET are trading at a lower price than the past valuation, with a pound exchange rate of only 0.84 and a dividend yield of 4%.
Again, it is a high risk game according to the standards of the insurance area. The obvious concern "never a cockroach" after accounting problems. But the benefits here too are important: if MetLife is able to convince investors that it is back on track, shareholders will not only receive a strong dividend, but also a stock that has appreciated significantly.
At the time of writing this article, Vince Martin has no position on the titles mentioned.