NEW YORK (
) -- Insurance stocks are the second-most volatile of any industry after banking shares, ensuring there's still money to be made on prudent picks.
TheStreet.com's recommended insurance-stock
from five weeks ago, based on price-to-book value, has surged 50%, compared with a 4.2% gain in the
and a 7% increase in the benchmark index's insurance subset. There are still opportunities to be had, as the economy rebounds, pushing up premiums, and as insurers restock capital, giving them a cushion. (Price-to-book value is calculated by taking a company's share price and dividing it by book value per share. Book value is the net asset value of a company, measured by total assets minus intangible assets (patents, goodwill) and liabilities.
Insurers' shares rise and fall frequently, as seen by their so-called beta value of 1.49 versus the S&P 500. Only banking stocks, such as
Bank of America
, are higher, at 1.51. Industrial companies, represented by
, have a beta of 1.08, and consumer staples, which include
, are at 0.53.
The star insurance performer was the
, up 80% over five weeks.
( PMI) rose 77%,
increased 76% and
jumped 75%. Since June 24, Radian has soared almost five-fold.
, which raised $564 million in a
this week, has risen 53% in the past five weeks, despite a 14% drop Sept. 1.
Even insurance zombie
American International Group
is up 48%. (To be sure, the stock is down 58% over the past year.)
The laggards had a higher book-to-value ratio, so the opportunity could have been considered smaller.
, a bond insurer, returned 19%. The worst performer was
, up 14%. Still, that's three times the pace of the S&P 500 Index.
In trying to make money in the next few months, investors' optimism has grown after companies gave more upbeat updates.
Hartford Financial Services
reported a reduction in unrealized losses, according to SNL Financial.
Our top-10 recommendations for stocks with attractive price-to-book values in the next five weeks introduces three new companies,
, with a value of 47.8%;
Stewart Information Services
, at 55.6%; and
, with 61%. Fair warning, though: Independence and Stewart have significant short interest at about 11, compared with an average of 2.9 for the other insurers on the best-book-value list.
Phoenix presents the best value, at 37%. On the opposite end, Kingsway is at 63% and First Acceptance is at 79%. In the prior listing, the best value was 19%, indicating insurance stock may rise, though not as quickly, in the next five weeks.
AIG and MBIA have been removed from the list of top-10 recommended best book values because their shares have risen too fast. Plus, they still contain exceptional risk.
In five weeks, insurance companies will have published third-quarter results. An improvement in sentiment would buoy stocks.
Any investments should be reviewed regularly -- at least quarterly -- if you're using book value as a benchmark.
-- Reported by Gavin Magor in Jupiter, Fla.
Gavin Magor joined TheStreet.com Ratings in 2008, and is the senior analyst responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to health insurers and supporting other health care-related consumer products, including Medicare supplement insurance, long-term care insurance and elder care information. He conducts industry analysis in these areas. He has more than 20 years' international experience in credit risk management, commercial lending and analysis, working in the U.K., Sweden, Mexico, Brazil and the U.S. He holds a master's degree in business administration from The Open University in the U.K.