Why Hartford Earnings Should Soar This Quarter
Hartford Financial will release its quarterly report on Monday, and the insurance company's prospects have been looking increasingly favorable lately. With a big boost in its stock price and some positive economic developments, Hartford earnings are poised to post some big growth numbers when it reports.
Hartford went through a rough few years during and after the financial crisis as commitments it had made to policyholders created big losses exactly as income from its investment portfolio fell through the floor. More recently, though, things have started looking up for the insurance industry more broadly, and Hartford's big transformation to focus on more profitable business appears to be paying off for the company. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Hartford Financial over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report.
Stats on Hartford Financial
Analyst EPS Estimate
Change From Year-Ago EPS
Change From Year-Ago Revenue
Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters
Source: Yahoo! Finance.
How long can Hartford earnings climb so fast?
Analysts have actually had mixed views on Hartford earnings recently, having cut their June-quarter estimates by $0.02 per share. But they've raised full-year 2013 and 2014 projections by $0.07 per share each, and the stock has responded in line with the longer-term view, rising 17% since late April.
Hartford has been going through a large restructuring of its business, having sold off business lines such as its individual life-insurance unit and its retirement plan business. Although the company posted a loss in its first-quarter report, a one-time charge related to expansion in its annuity-hedging program in Japan was to blame for the loss as Hartford moves more toward becoming a pure property and casualty insurance company. The company continued divesting non-core assets during the quarter, selling its U.K. variable annuity business to a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway last month for $285 million. Berkshire won in a competitive bidding process, seeing value in taking on the risk that Hartford is anxious to rid itself of going forward.
With almost three-quarters of its revenue now coming from its property and casualty business, Hartford will be increasingly sensitive to catastrophic losses when they occur. With this quarter's loss activity appearing to be relatively muted compared to past periods, Hartford's earnings growth is consistent with what we've seen from other companies. Travelers , for instance, blew out estimates when it reported earnings earlier this month, with an 85% jump in profits coming in part from more favorable loss experience.
One concern, though, comes from the bond market. Travelers cited massive unrealized gains from its bond portfolio that hurt its book value, and Hartford could see similar pressure this quarter as well. Higher rates should help Hartford by providing more investment income in the long run, but the short-term impact could surprise investors who aren't prepared for it.
In the Hartford earnings report, look to see how much more progress the company has made toward fully embracing the property and casualty business. For now, that seems like a lucrative strategy, but in the long run, Hartford's prospects will depend increasingly on the state of the P&C market and whether insurers can continue to keep premiums high even if loss experience moderates from some of the big disasters we've seen over the past couple of years.
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The article Why Hartford Earnings Should Soar This Quarter originally appeared on Fool.com.Fool contributor Dan Caplinger owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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