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Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day Highlights: Safeway, Hospira, Montpelier Re Holdings, CNO Financial Group and Progressive



  Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day Highlights: Safeway, Hospira, Montpelier Re
                Holdings, CNO Financial Group and Progressive

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, March 25, 2013

CHICAGO, March 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks Equity Research highlights
Safeway (NYSE:SWY) as the Bull of the Day and Hospira (NYSE:HSP) as the Bear
of the Day. In addition, Zacks Equity Research provides analysis on Montpelier
Re Holdings Ltd. (NYSE:MRH), CNO Financial Group Inc. (NYSE:CNO) and
Progressive Corp. (NYSE:PGR).

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101027/ZIRLOGO)

Full analysis of all these stocks is available at
http://at.zacks.com/?id=2678.

Here is a synopsis of all five stocks:

Bull of the Day:

Safeway (NYSE:SWY) has been consistently delivering positives earnings
surprises as it continues to grow its margins and the market share. Further
the company had been rewarding its investors with a solid dividend growth rate
and attractive share repurchases. No wonder, the stock has been on a strong
uptrend, but it still looks good on some of the valuation metrics.

Excellent growth potential and a solid record of returning cash to
shareholders make this Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock an attractive
long-term investment.

With 1,641 stores in the Western, Southwestern, Rocky Mountain, and
Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States and in western Canada, Safeway is
one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America. The company
operates stores under a variety of names including Vons, Dominick's, and
Randalls and Tom Thumb.

Safeway reported its fourth quarter 2012 results on February 21, 2013.
Fourth-quarter earnings were$1.06 per share, up 58% from the prior-year
quarter, and significantly above Zacks consensus estimate.

Bear of the Day:

Hospira (NYSE:HSP) has been facing some serious manufacturing quality concerns
related its injectable drugs as well as infusion pump systems. Its remediation
efforts may be successful in the long-run but they will hurt the bottom line
in the short-run.

Further, the time frame for remediation remains uncertain and the company may
continue to lose its market share during this time.

In view of the cloudy outlook, investors should avoid this Zacks Rank # 5
(Strong Sell) stock for the time being.

Headquartered in Lake Forest, IL, Hospira is the world's leading provider of
injectable drugs and infusion technologies. Hospira was spun off from Abbott
Laboratories in 2004.

In the last 2-3 years, the company has received several notices from the US
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding quality control issues at its
Rocky Mountain facility and other facilities. The remediation efforts are
likely to be costly and time consuming. Further, manufacturing will likely
remain constrained during the remediation period.

Latest Posts on the Zacks Analyst Blog:

Montpelier Re: Strong Buy

On Mar 21, 2013, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Montpelier Re Holdings
Ltd. (NYSE:MRH) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

Montpelier has been experiencing rising earnings estimates on the back of
improved fourth-quarter 2012 results. Moreover, the company swung to profit in
2012, paving the way for a brighter outlook for 2013. Additionally, this
property-casualty insurer delivered positive earnings surprises in all of the
last 4 quarters with an average beat of 44.7%.

On Feb 7, Montpelier reported fourth-quarter 2012 loss of 31 cents per share,
which stood far less than the Zacks Consensus Estimate loss of 80 cents. The
results were supported by 2.9% growth in gross premiums written and 5.6%
improvement in net insurance and reinsurance premiums earned.

Meanwhile, operating earnings came in at $2.58 per share in 2012, exceeding
the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.12. Results rebounded from a loss of $2.50
incurred in 2011.

A steady improvement in operating performance is also reflected by
Montpelier's escalated book value per share. Moreover, the company has been
retaining shareholders' confidence by returning wealth via share repurchases
worth $121 million in 2012 along with a 9.5% hike in common dividends. These
factors also bode well with the ratings agencies and augur long-term growth.

Based on Montpelier's fundamental strength and focus on its underwriting
operations, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 rose 3.8% to $2.47 per share
in the last 60 days, with one upward revision in estimates. The estimate for
2014 is pegged at $2.55, rising 1.6% in the last 60 days, with no estimate
revisions.

Other Stocks to Consider

Apart from Montpelier, other stocks that are outperforming in the insurance
sector include CNO Financial Group Inc. (NYSE:CNO) and Progressive Corp.
(NYSE:PGR), which also carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Get the full analysis of all these stocks by going to
http://at.zacks.com/?id=2649.

About the Bull and Bear of the Day

Every day, the analysts at Zacks Equity Research select two stocks that are
likely to outperform (Bull) or underperform (Bear) the markets over the next
3-6 months.

About the Analyst Blog

Updated throughout every trading day, the Analyst Blog provides analysis from
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Continuous analyst coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly
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