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Life insurance stocks roar back after post-Brexit losses

The stockmarket's rise to record highs swept life insurers along with it as investor fearsof Brexit's repercussions mellowed.

Afterthe U.K.'s departure from the European Union shook global financial markets, U.S.equity markets rebounded nearly as quickly as they had fallen. The S&P 500 rose1.59% to 2,163.75, while the SNL Insurance Index gained 1.23% to reach 759.03 during the five-day trading period fromJuly 8 to July 14.

"Especiallywith the life insurers, you saw them take some hits in the wake of the Brexit vote,and there's a little bit of a bounce-back now," Brett Horn, a senior equityanalyst at Morningstar, said in an interview. "I thought, frankly, that thesell-off post-Brexit was a bit overdone."

Severalof the largest life insurers saw their stock plummet after the votes to exit were tallied. Shares of and both dropped morethan 10%. Earlier in the week of July4, life insurance stocks still seemed unattractive to investors.

But MetLifeand Lincoln were near the top of the pack for gains over the past five days: MetLife'sstock rose 8.11% to $42.38, while Lincoln shot up 10.26% to $42.87. Prudential Financial Inc. shares grew 5.68% to $75.02.

notched a7.78% gain to $2.77, but remained farbelow its high for the year of $4.06 per share on May 2. American Equity Investment Life Holding Co. rose 8.40% to$16.01.

Theinstability in global capital markets unleashed by the U.K.'s departure put renewedpressure on U.S. government debt, forcing the yield on the 10-year Treasury to 1.36%on July 8. But government bonds surged back over the next several days, reachingas high as 1.55% on July 14. Life insurers tend to move in step with interest ratemovements, Horn noted.

July8 also saw the release of the bestmonthly jobs report in 2016 to date. The U.S. economy added 287,000nonfarm jobs in June, the Department of Labor said in its report.

Elsewherein the insurance sector, mortgage insurers saw some of the biggest gains acrossthe space, with Radian Group Inc.rising 10.48% to $12.12 and MGIC InvestmentCorp. gaining 6.29% to $6.42.

Some property and casualty writers and some health insurers laggedbehind the sector's and wider market's gains. Erie Indemnity Co. shares shed 0.61% to $97.88, ProgressiveCorp. dropped 0.68% to $33.46 and Allstate Corp. slid 0.50% to $69.31.

Progressive, one of the earliest P&C insurers to report earnings,on July 14 reported a 47% year-over-year dropin net income for the second quarter.

Several other P&C writers and reinsurers reported estimatedcatastrophe losses for the second quarter. XLGroup Plc on July 13 reported about $240 million of cat losses, pretax and net of reinsuranceand restatement premiums. Its stock lost 1.12% during the five-day period, closingat $32.64. Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd. disclosed $65 million of pretaxcat losses, net of thesame items. Its stock dropped 0.35% to $45.05. Both companies cited the Fort McMurray wildfires, which became thecostliest insured naturaldisaster in Canadian history, as contributing to the losses.

Investors may also be wary of exposure to a major cat event inthe U.S. later this year, Aite Group analyst Jay Sarzen noted in an interview. "There'sstill a lot of uncertainty out there in the cat season," Sarzen said. "Therehasn't been a major landfall hurricane in quite some time now."

Overall, P&C insurers have outperformed life and health writersin 2016. The SNL Insurance Life and Health Index has fallen 3.69% to date, whilethe SNL Insurance P&C Index has gained 4.68%.