Hartford Rallies as McGee’s Focus Turns to Annuities

Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., the insurer selling units to focus on property-casualty coverage, climbed to a six-month high as Credit Suisse Group AG said it can free capital that’s backing variable annuities.

Hartford gained 2.2 percent to close at $21.20 in New York trading, the highest since April 4. The shares have advanced 13 percent since Sept. 26, the day before Hartford announced the sale of a life insurance unit.

Chief Executive Officer Liam McGee has agreed this year to sell the life unit, a broker-dealer and the individual-annuities distribution business, freeing capital that can be returned to shareholders. Hartford, based in the Connecticut city of the same name, is still working to manage liabilities on variable annuities it previously sold.

“Convincing investors that there is material positive value in the variable-annuity business” can boost the stock, Thomas Gallagher, an analyst at Credit Suisse, wrote in a research note today, using Hartford’s ticker symbol, HIG. “‘We are incrementally more confident that HIG will be able to successfully free up capital.’’

McGee said in an interview last week that Hartford may seek to do transactions to limit the risk of variable annuities the company sold in the U.S. and Japan. In August, he said the firm was ‘‘laser-focused on all possible ways to accelerate reducing the liabilities.’’

Variable annuities can guarantee minimum returns to clients. Hartford’s liabilities increase on the contracts when bond yields decline and stock markets fall. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has advanced 28 percent in the past 12 months.

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