AFL, UNM, AMSF and EIG

Eufemia Didonato

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – September 21, 2020 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Aflac AFL, Unum Group UNM, Amerisafe AMSF and Employers Holdings EIG.

Here are highlights from Friday’s Analyst Blog:

4 Accident and Health Insurance Stocks to Watch Amid Pricing Pressure

The Zacks Accident and Health Insurance industry is likely to benefit from prudent underwriting and increase in underwriting exposure. Aflac, Unum Group, Amerisafe and Employers Holdings should continue benefiting from prudent underwriting standards, though rise in claims frequency could weigh on the positives.  

The industry has been witnessing soft pricing over the past several quarters. Nonetheless, rise in claims due to the pandemic is likely to increase pricing for this industry in the coming days. Also, increasing adoption of technology in operations will help in smooth functioning of the industry amid coronavirus-induced challenges.

About the Industry

The Zacks Accident and Health Insurance industry comprises companies that provide workers’ compensation insurance, largely to employers operating in hazardous industries, such as construction, trucking, logging and lumber plus manufacturing and agriculture. These companies also offer group, individual or voluntary supplemental insurance products.

Workers’ compensation is a form of accident insurance paid by employers without affecting employees’ pay. Claims are generally met by insurance companies or state-run workers’ compensation funds.

3 Trends Shaping the Future of Accident & Health Insurance Industry

Pricing May Improve on Increase in Claims: The worker’s compensation industry has been witnessing pricing pressure over the past several quarters. Given this soft pricing, efforts to retain market share will again induce pricing pressure, which might curb top-line growth.  However, increase in claims due to the pandemic will likely increase pricing for this industry in the coming days.

Claims Frequency Might Rise: The accident and health insurance space has witnessed growth over the years, primarily driven by increase in benefits offered by employers. The right kind of workers’ compensation policy translates into personal care for injured workers, increased productivity, higher employee morale, lower turnover, reduced claims costs and less financial worry amid rising medical costs.

Increasing underwriting exposure, sustained decrease in claims frequency rates attributable to better working environment and conservative reserve levels have been boosting the industry’s performance. This should help insurers meet claims without putting margins under strain during this pandemic.

However, there are some essential services, which need to continue, and the related employees are at high risk of getting infected (as workers’ compensation includes claims due to exposure to coronavirus). Frequency of claims from such essential service industries are bound to rise. On the other hand, rise in unemployment and furlough will adversely impact new sales while premiums might be hampered due to decline in persistency.

Increasing Adoption of Technology: The industry is witnessing accelerated adoption of technology in operations. Carriers started selling policies online that appeal to the tech-savvy population. Given the current pandemic, several organizations are working remotely to comply with social distancing norms. Electronic applications, e-signatures, electronic policy delivery, cloud computing or blockchain should help insurers gain a competitive edge. Nonetheless, higher spending on technological advancements will result in escalated expense ratios.

Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Solid Prospects

The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all-member stocks, indicates bright near-term prospects. The Zacks Accident and Health Insurance industry, housed within the broader Zacks Finance sector, currently carries a Zacks Industry Rank #23, which places it in the top 9% of 250 plus Zacks industries. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.

The industry’s position in the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries is a result of positive earnings outlook for the constituent companies in aggregate. Looking at the aggregate earnings estimate revisions, it appears that analysts are gradually gaining confidence in this group’s earnings growth potential. Since May 30, 2020, the industry’s earnings estimates for the current year have increased 5.2%.

Given the industry’s encouraging prospects, we present a few stocks one can buy or retain, given their business advancement endeavors. But before that, it’s worth taking a look at the industry’s performance and current valuation.

Industry Underperforms Sector and S&P 500

The Accident and Health Insurance industry has underperformed the Zacks S&P 500 composite and its own sector over the past year. The stocks in this industry have collectively lost 25.6% in the past year while the Finance sector has declined 11.7%. The Zacks S&P 500 composite has gained 12.1% over the same period.

Current Valuation

On the basis of a trailing 12-month price-to-book (P/B) ratio, commonly used for valuing insurance stocks, the industry is currently trading at 0.82 compared with the S&P 500 composite’s 5.77 and the sector’s 2.52.

Over the past five years, the industry has traded as high as 1.6X, as low as 0.58X and at the median of 1.34X.

4 Accident & Health Insurance Stocks to Keep an Eye on

We are recommending a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock from the Zacks Accident and Health Insurance industry. We are also presenting two stocks with a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) each from the same industry. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Employers Holdings: The Reno, NV-based provider of workers’ compensation insurance to small businesses in low to medium hazard industries sports Zacks Rank #1. The company should continue to benefit from solid presence in attractive markets and prudent underwriting. This company has seen upward estimate revisions for its 2020 bottom line over the past 60 days by 73.9%. The stock has lost 30.4% in the past year.

Amerisafe Inc:  This DeRidder, LA-based company is a specialty provider of workers’ compensation insurance. The company should continue to gain from high hazard niche focus, small to mid-size employer focus, high hazard underwriting expertise and intensive claims management. The This Zacks Rank #2 company has seen upward estimate revisions for its 2020 bottom line over the past 60 days by 6.9%. The company delivered a trailing four-quarter positive earnings surprise of 58.21% on average. The stock has lost 11.2% in the past year.

Aflac Inc.: This Columbus, GA-based company offers voluntary supplemental health and life insurance products and operated through Aflac Japan and Aflac U.S.  Aflac’s Argus buyout will provide it with a platform to build the company’s network of dental and vision products and further strengthen its U.S. segment. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2020 indicates 4.1% year-over-year increase. This Zacks Rank #3 company has seen upward estimate revisions for its 2020 bottom line over the past 60 days by 6.9%. The company delivered a trailing four-quarter positive earnings surprise of 10.92% on average. The stock has lost 28.4% in the past year.

Unum Group: This Chattanooga, TN-based company provides long-term care insurance, life insurance, employer- and employee-paid group benefits and related services. Continued rollout of dental products and geographic expansion has been paying off for this Zacks Rank #3 company, as acquired dental insurance businesses are growing in the United States and the United Kingdom. Its expected long-term earnings growth is 9%, better than the industry average of 7%. The company delivered a trailing four-quarter positive earnings surprise of 0.66% on average. The stock has lost 37.1% in the past year.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit https://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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