Protective Life Shares Surged: What You Need to Know

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of life insurance and annuities provider Protective Life (NYS: PL) were living large today, gaining as much as 16% in intraday trading after the company reported solid third-quarter earnings.

So what: Pre-tax operating income per share jumped 38% during the quarter, clocking in at $0.98. That trounced Wall Street analysts' estimates, which pegged the per-share profit at $0.78.

On the basis of pre-tax operating income, the company's life marketing segment fell 34% from last year. However, the rest of the company's businesses were up considerably, with its annuities business looking particularly strong as it nearly doubled from a year ago.

Now what: Between volatile financial markets and low interest rates, it's been a relatively tough operating environment for life insurance companies, and investors have been largely shunning them. Protective Life is no exception: Currently the stock trades at around half of the company's reported book value. While Mr. Market may not be helping the stock, Protective Life is hoping to help itself, and authorized a new share repurchase program at the end of October that will allow the company to buy back up to $300 million of its own stock.

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