The analysts released two strong buy, three buy, four hold and two underperform reports on the company, and the consensus is that investors could see a 14% to 18% annual return over the next five years. TheStreet rates this an "A" stock. The individual investor as measured by the readers of Motley Fool are bullish on this stock, and 2,801 readers gave the stock a 98% vote of confidence to beat the market. The really smart boys -- the short-sellers -- have been covering their positions. Short interest has gone from a high of 185,000 shares a year ago to a low of 38,000 shares recently.
: The market is a pretty good judge, and while Markel was up 24% over the past year, The Traveler's Companies ( TRV) was up 29%, Chubb ( CB) up 19% and Allstate ( ALL) up a whopping 57%. Traveler's has an "A" financial-strength rating and is rated "A" by TheStreet. Revenue is expected to be up 2% this year, and earnings are estimated to increase by 12.65% annually for the next five years. Chubb has an "A+" financial-strength rating and is rated "A" by TheStreet. Revenue is projected to be up 3.40% this year and earnings to compound by 8.90% annually for the next five years AllState has an "A" financial strength rating and is rated "B" by TheStreet. It may have already had its price gain and is expected to increase revenue by 1.80% nest year and have earnings increase of 16.28% annually for the next five years. Conclusion: Markel is having solid growth projections in both revenue and earnings and an investment portfolio that seems to be performing well. Good financial strength and a reasonable P/E is a plus. The stock is outperforming the market, and the price compared to the 20-, 50- and 100-day moving averages and the increasing 14-day turtle channels deserve your attention if you are a long-term, conservative investor. At the time of publication, Van Meerten held no shares in stocks mentioned. This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.