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Insurers Are Capturing Investors' Attention

Stocks in this article: CNC AGP ASI

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Investors are ignoring insurance stocks, pushing down trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange by 20%.

The following five insurers are an exception. Trading is 83% higher than average, led by two health insurers. (The list excludes Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), which isn't mainly an insurer.) Higher interest in the shares can lead to increased profits for investors.

5. Centene (CNC) is a Missouri-based health-insurance company.

Weekly Volume as Percentage of Average: 171%

Financial Fundamentals: Third-quarter cash and equivalents of $394 million rose 4%. Total assets climbed 20%. Liabilities advanced 18%. Policy income gained 12%. Net income increased for the second consecutive quarter, totaling $23.8 million, despite a 49% drop in investment income.

Market Indicators: Investors reacted to a stock issuance by dumping the shares, leading to a 6.9% drop. The shares are down 7.6% this year and up 8.4% over 12 months. The price is 10% below analysts' consensus target. The price-to-earnings ratio is 10.2, with a price-to-book value of 147%. Short interest is waning. No dividend.

News and Gossip: Fourth-quarter earnings are expected Feb. 9. The company will use $300 million raised in a share sale for debt repayment.

4. Amerigroup (AGP) is a Virginia-based Medicare and Medicaid specialist insurer.

Weekly Volume as Percentage of Average: 174%

Financial Fundamentals: Third-quarter cash and equivalents declined 9%, but assets remained steady. Policy income continued to rise, gaining 17%. Total membership was up marginally. Investment income dropped 70%. Increased medical expenses were mitigated by reduced underwriting and other expenses. Net income plunged 43% to $22.5 million.

Market Indicators: The price-to-earnings ratio of 15.8 is higher than the trailing P/E of 10, and, if investment earnings improve, this would change. Price-to-book value is 146%. Short interest has halved since December. The stock price is down 6.7% over one week but up 1% for the year and 1.2% over 12 months. There's a 4.7% price gap between analysts' consensus target and today's price. No dividend.

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