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Piper Jaffray Ups Selective Insurance Group

Piper Jaffray raised its investment recommendation on Selective Insurance Group (SIGI) to outperform.

Analyst Mike Grasher said third quarter operating earnings per share of $1.16 were ahead of his 88 cents estimate and the consensus of 93 cents. He says the company's GAAP loss ratio narrowed to 63.9% from his estimate of 67%, improving from 66.7% a year ago. He estimates a 1% change in loss ration impacts earnings per share by 8 cents. He says results reflect the company's prudent underwriting standards and improving profitability within its Services business. He upped his 2005 earnings per share estiamte to $4.32 from $4.00 on revenue of $1.67 billion, up from $1.66 billion. He also ups his 2006 earnings per share estimate to $4.75 from $4.30 on revenue of $1.81 billion up from $1.76 billion. He kept a $55 price target on the stock.

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