TSC Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund ratings and commentary based on award-winning, proprietary tools. Its "safety first" approach to investing aims to reduce risk while seeking solid outperformance on a total return basis.
The short sellers of insurance stocks are back.
Taking the most heat is Citizens (CIA - Get Report), with a short interest ratio of 17.6, up 3.8 in a week. Citizens, however, has outperformed its peers, and analysts' consensus price target for 2009 is $9. Someone has got it wrong.
The largest increase in short interest, up 5.7 to 12.9, was in Ambac Financial Group (ABK), recently declared solvent by Wisconsin's insurance regulator after it abandoned its attempts to create a separate corporate bond insurance company. It's struggling to reach an agreement over its guarantee for swaps between UBS (UBS) and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority following Moody's downgrade. Primus Guarantee (PRS), a volatile stock with a beta of 1.7, has a short interest ratio of 15.4, an increase of 4. The shares have fallen 30% during the past year. Maybe some believe the credit swap insurance market is exposed. Certainly, Primus was displeased and asked that its ratings be withdrawn last month when Standard & Poor's downgraded the company. Auto insurer Mercury General (MCY - Get Report) received a negative outlook from Moody's last month after it received approval for a 3% rate cut in its California market. It holds third place behind State Farm and Zurich Financial Services' Farmers Group, which completed the purchase of American International Group's (AIG - Get Report) car insurance subsidiary, 21st Century, on July 1. That competitive situation appears to have some nervous, as rate reductions keep receiving approvals. With a short interest ratio of 12.6, up 3.7 in the week, even this company with a low-volatility beta of 0.83 faces an examination.