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Major P&C stocks book gains above 5%


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Major P&C stocks book gains above 5%

The stocks of several big-name property and casualty companies booked solid gains alongside the broader market for the week ending May 17.

Several P&C writers saw gains beyond 5%. Progressive Corp. shares rose 7.33% to reach $78.86, while Heritage Insurance Holdings Inc. and saw an increase of 6.03% to $15.66.

The S&P 500 rose 2.29% to 2,876.3 between May 13 and May 16, while the SNL U.S. Insurance Index gained 1.69% to 1,050.2 between those dates.

The P&C insurance space is one of the few areas not overly exposed to trade or tariff activity, CFRA analyst Cathy Seifert said in an interview. The industry is also benefiting from a better pricing environment independent of major macroeconomic and global trade events, she said.

Insurance stocks are "a relatively safe haven when there is uncertainty elsewhere," Sandler O'Neill & Partners analyst Paul Newsome said in an interview.

Investors also rewarded some companies for reporting stronger earnings. Progressive's shares were up after the company reported April results this week. Net income attributable to the company surged 87% to $487.8 million in April from $260.6 million a year ago. Net income per share available to common shareholders was 83 cents in April versus 44 cents a year ago.

Elsewhere in P&C stocks, Argo Group International Holdings Ltd. shares were nearly flat, up slightly by 0.23% to $74.14. The company has been locked in an ongoing fight with activist investor Voce Capital Management LLC. Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services sided with the company early this week and recommended that Argo shareholders vote in favor of all of its directors at the May 24 annual meeting. But Glass Lewis, the other major proxy advisory firm, is backing Voce Capital's board nominees.

Syncora Holdings Ltd.'s stocks increased 6.95% to $5.08 in the same week the company reported first-quarter earnings.

Last week, Boenning & Scattergood analyst Robert Farnam upgraded Hallmark Financial Services Inc. to "outperform" from "neutral" after the company reported "solid" first-quarter earnings.

Hallmark Financial logged first-quarter operating EPS of 31 cents, higher than Farnam's estimate of 20 cents. The company's underwriting income also beat the analyst's estimate by 8 cents per share after tax, while the 96.5% combined ratio was 1.7 percentage points lower than expected.

Hallmark Financial's stock rose 4.50% to $11.60.

The stock of life and health broker Health Insurance Innovations Inc. rose 26.09% to $23.78 after finishing in the red last week. The stock has been under pressure for some time after a U.S. House committee launched an investigation into the practices of companies that sell or help consumers buy short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans.