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Insurance Stocks Are a 'Glacial' Theme

The business of "reinsurance" involves insurance that is purchased by insurance companies to limit the total loss an insurer would experience in case of an oversized disaster like Super-Storm Sandy. In past years reinsurance was not hard to obtain.

In recent years that has changed. Massive earthquakes like the one in Japan, increasingly severe outbreaks of violent weather and floods, and other recent natural disasters have made it difficult for insurers to secure reinsurance.

The result has been that insurers have abandoned certain markets and states, or, the premiums for specific kinds of insurance have risen to all-time highs. Let's look at a chart to see how reinsurance companies like RGA have fared the past five years. The potential upside is plain to see.

RGA ChartRGA data by YCharts

With rising quarterly revenue growth and earnings improvements, it's not surprising that analysts' consensus one-year price target for RGA is above $65. With a forward PE of only 7 and a price-to-earnings-to growth ratio (PEG ratio) of only 1.10 RGA looks like a bargain among insurers and reinsurers.

A more famous name in the insurance business is Chubb (CB) which provides property and casualty insurance to businesses and individuals. For the immediate future that should be a profitable business as long as they collect their premiums and invest them wisely.

Chubb has a trailing-12-month ROA of 3.37% and a positive ROE of nearly 12%. Along with a 79% year-over-year quarterly earnings growth and $2.08 billion in levered free cash flow, an investor can appreciate how CB can sustain a 2.2% dividend with a low 24% payout ratio.

As the five-year chart below illustrates, the price-per-share of CB and its rising diluted quarterly EPS have done very well for shareholders and investors.

CB ChartCB data by YCharts

Chubb took a hit from Sandy to the tune of about $880 million, which is part of the reason the stock has dropped below its 52-week high of $81.80. Like most of the other companies impacted by the October Super-Storm it had the reserves and reinsurance in place to cover the financial blow.

Stock quotes in this article: RGA, CB, IAK, PC 

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