Hartford Financial Advances After Profit Beats Estimates

Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. climbed in New York trading after profit beat estimates as the insurer’s margins widened.

Hartford gained 3.2 percent to $28.09 at 4:15 p.m., the biggest advance in the 24-company KBW Insurance Index. Shares of Hartford, based in the Connecticut city of the same name, have advanced 25 percent this year.

Core earnings, which exclude some investment results, were 92 cents a share in the first quarter, beating the 82 cent average estimate of 17 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The insurer paid out 93.6 cents on claims and expenses for every premium dollar it took in at the property-casualty unit, about 2 cents less than a year earlier, as the company benefited from lower costs tied to natural disasters.

“Margins in both the commercial lines and personal lines P&C businesses were robust,” Jimmy Bhullar, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. wrote in a research note. “Potential acceleration of share buybacks could drive upside.”

Core earnings at the property-casualty unit rose 12 percent in the first quarter to $318 million, and Hartford recorded a gain after determining it had more funds set aside than necessary for coverage sold in prior years. Chief Executive Officer Liam McGee is focusing on property-casualty coverage, after divesting a life insurance unit and ending variable-annuity sales.

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