BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Insurance stocks are some of the cheapest in the equity market. Aside from AIG (AIG), which recently attracted capital from value guru Bruce Berkowitz of Fairholme Capital (FAIRX), insurance stocks get little attention from the media. Warren Buffett earned a fortune buying insurance companies. His Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) has been involved in the insurance business since it bought National Indemnity in 1967.
Here are the 10 cheapest U.S. insurance stocks. Most trade below book value and are predicted by analysts to make huge gains in the next year. Although the insurance business is inherently risky, the value of these stocks provides investors with a margin of safety. Below, they are ordered by forward earnings multiple, from cheap to cheapest.
10. Protective Life (PL - Get Report) sells insurance and investment products. Second-quarter profit tumbled 54% to $41 million, or 47 cents a share, as revenue decreased 9.3% to $712 million. The operating margin narrowed from 21% to 14%. Protective Life's stock trades at a trailing earnings multiple of 7.2, a forward earnings multiple of 7.6 and a cash flow multiple of 1.7 -- 58%, 31%, and 82% discounts to insurance industry averages. One analyst rates it "buy," nine rate it "hold" and two rank it "sell." A median target of $25.43 suggests a 12-month return of 15%.
Bullish Scenario: UBS (UBS) predicts that Protective Life's stock will rise 40% to $31.