The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Chubb Corp, Allstate Corporation, Travelers Companies, Montpelier Re Holdings Ltd and Progressive Corp.

CHICAGO, Nov. 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- 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 Chubb Corp (CB), Allstate Corporation (ALL), The Travelers Companies (TRV), Montpelier Re Holdings Ltd. (MRH) and Progressive Corp  (PGR).

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Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Four daily picks are offered free.

Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

Sandy to Hurt Insurers' 4Q Margins

While the U.S. property and casualty insurers had reported favorable earnings in the first nine months of 2012, superstorm Sandy will alter the picture in the final quarter of the year. Although the ultimate estimates of the loss caused by Sandy are yet to come out, catastrophe loss modeling companies project the amount to be approximately $20 billion.

Property and casualty insurance and reinsurance companies under our coverage, such as Chubb Corp. (CB), Allstate Corporation (ALL), The Travelers Companies Inc. (TRV), Montpelier Re Holdings Ltd. (MRH), Progressive Corp. (PGR),etc. all posted stronger underwriting results owing to lower catastrophe losses during the most recently concluded third quarter of 2012. Some of these companies also increased their fiscal 2012 earnings guidance.

However, at the current level, we are concerned over the immediate impact of Sandy on the fourth quarter results of these insurers. Reduced share buybacks may also be witnessed at these companies, as these will need cash to meet the catastrophe claims. The insurers do not expect even their major source of earnings i.e. investment income to provide any aid since the continuing low interest rate environment will keep the investment income pressurized, resulting in overall margin compression.

Most of the insurer/reinsurers had posted earnings ahead of the Zacks Consensus estimates for the first half of 2012, compared with the 2011 period, primarily due to milder catastrophe losses. Insured catastrophes losses in the U.S. totaled $9.3 billion during the period, substantially below $24.4 billion recorded in the first half of 2011.

On the other end of the spectrum, these kinds of huge catastrophe losses are imperative for bringing a change in the insurance pricing cycle. Insurance pricing, which remained soft (low) for almost six years now, can only notice a rebound once the surplus capital available in the industry drains down to a level forcing insurers to increase their quotes.

Record catastrophe losses during 2011, has improved prices in the commercial and property lines of business. During the third quarter conference call, senior management of major insurers spoke about improving market pricing across the U.S. commercial books. However, a broad-based pricing improvement across all the business lines remains something that is yet to be seen.

Despite huge losses during the last one and a half years, a surplus capital is still available in the industry. For a classic hard market, which is quite a distant proposition, it requires sustained industry losses causing a decline in the industry's capacity and a subsequent increase in underwriting discipline among insurers.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Four daily picks are offered free.

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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.

SOURCE Zacks Investment Research, Inc.



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