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5 Buy-Rated Insurance Stocks for Long-Term Investors

Stocks in this article: BAC MET BRK.B PRU TRV ACE

3. The Travelers Companies

Shares of The Travelers Companies (TRV) closed at $57.10 Thursday, for a 3% year-to-date decline, following last year's 9% total return. Based on a 41-cent quarterly payout, the shares have a dividend yield of 2.87%.

The shares trade for 1.3 times tangible book value, and for 10 times the consensus 2012 EPS estimate of $5.74. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is $6.04.

Travelers earned $1.4 billion, or $3.36 a share during 2011, declining from $3.2 billion, or $6.62 a share, in 2010, because of a $4 billion increase in claims and claim adjustment expenses, and because the prior year included a $1 billion tax benefit.

KBW analyst Cliff Gallant has a neutral rating on Travelers, with a $60 price target, saying on Thursday that "the company's overall reserve position is adequate with little net redundancy or deficiency," and that because there is "less cushion in the reserves" than in previous years, he expects "that the likelihood of earnings 'misses' is greater, and there is less ability to offset some of the other ROE pressures on the business such as low investment yields."

Travelers repurchased 20.9 million shares for $1.2 billion during the fourth quarter, with total 2011 repurchases of $2.9 billion. During the company's fourth-quarter earnings conference call on Jan, 24, CFO Jay Benet said that Travelers had been "diligently and systematically identifying opportunities to free up capital, returning that freed up capital to our shareholders," and hinted that the buybacks would be curtailed, as "the process of freeing up capital is now largely complete."

Interested in more on The Travelers Companies? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

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