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What Makes Selective Insurance (SIGI) an Attractive Pick

Selective Insurance Group, Inc. SIGI has been in investors' good books on the back of higher retention, business growth, improved private equity strategy investment income and prudent capital deployment.

The company is well poised for progress, as is evident from its favorable VGM Score of B. Here V stands for Value, G for Growth and M for Momentum, with the score being a weighted combination of all three factors.

The company best earnings estimates in two of the last four quarters, with the average surprise being 2.8%.

Premium growth continues to be driven by higher retention, increasing renewal fuel prices and business improvement across the company’s segments.

Despite the current low interest rate environment, increase in pre-tax income from other investments portfolio and private equity strategy investment income are likely to fuel net investment income, one of the key constituents of the company’s top-line growth.

It estimates after-tax net investment income of $175 million for 2020, driven by $10-$15 million of after-tax net investment income from alternative investments.

Though the company experienced a significant level of catastrophe losses in first-half 2020 owing to a derecho in the midwestern states, Hurricane Isaias and Hurricane Laura, Selective Insurance estimates combined ratio — excluding catastrophe losses — between 88% and 89% for 2020. This reflects an improvement from the prior guided range of 90-91%.

Its debt to capital stands at 23.1% and long-term debt to capital is 18.7% which is well below longer-term target. Its strong balance sheet, and holding company cash and ability provide it with the financial resources and flexibility to continue investing in the business, as well as grow insurance operations.

It has raised dividend at a six-year (2014-2020) CAGR of 9.9% and the current dividend yield is 1.5%, which is better than the industry average of 0.4%. Recently, it authorized a share buyback program, which allows it to spend up to $100 million to repurchase its common stock. This makes the stock an attractive pick for yield-seeking investors.

Moreover, return on equity (ROE) — reflecting the company’s efficient utilization of ishareholders’ funds to generate earnings — has been increasing over the past several years. Its trailing 12 months’ ROE of 9.8% is better than the industry average of 5.6%.

It has an impressive Value Score of B. Our research shows that stocks with a Value Style Score of A or B when combined with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) offer the best opportunities in the value investing space.

Over the past 60 days, the company’s 2020 and 2021 earnings estimates have moved 8.1% and 4.9% north, respectively.

Moreover, this Zacks Rank #2 property and casualty insurer has gained 3.5% in the past year, outperforming the industry’s decline of 2.2%.

Other Stocks to Consider

Other top-ranked stocks in the insurance space include The Allstate Corporation ALL, Alleghany Corporation Y and American Financial Group, Inc. AFG. While The Allstate and Alleghany sport a Zacks Rank #1, American Financial carries a Zacks Rank #2. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

The Allstate surpassed earnings estimates in each of the last four quarters, with the average surprise being 38.6%.

Alleghany surpassed estimates in two of the last four quarters, with the average earnings surprise being 34.1%.

American Financial surpassed earnings estimates in three of the last four quarters, with the average surprise being 5.9%.

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