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Progressive: Driving Carefully

Shares of progressive (PGR) have been making some headway lately, since sliding from 27 last June to 20 on Mar. 15. But that hasn't discouraged Michael Camp, a principal at Northwest Criterion Asset Management. He bought in at 23 two months ago; the stock is now at 23.42. With total revenues of $14.7 billion in 2006, Progressive "is a low-cost auto insurer with steady earnings power, selling at 10.5 times last year's earnings," notes Camp. Based on its earnings history, the stock is cheap, he adds. "Almost every adult needs auto insurance, and Progressive is a leader in the industry," he says. Insiders own a lot of the stock, led by Chairman Peter Lewis, with a 6.7% stake. Harry Fong of Calyon Securities rates the stock a buy and sees profits of $2 a share in 2007, compared with a consensus forecast of $1.89 and up from 55 cents in 2006.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.

By Gene G. Marcial

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