Rising interest rates and capital returns boosting insurers

|By:, SA News Editor

The insurance sector (KIE +2.1%) is flying higher with a number of new 52-week highs, led by MetLife (MET +6.2%) and Lincoln National (LNC +6.6%) which both posted big earnings numbers overnight.

MetLife meant what it said about a shift away from capital and market-sensitive products with variable annuity sales off 40%. While management will not launch share buybacks while the SIFI designation process winds along (another 7-8 months), the team wouldn't rule out (CC transcript)  another increase in the dividend (it raised it to $1.10 from $0.74 earlier this year).

Under no such regulatory thumb, Lincoln has been busy buying back its shares at well below book value for some time. On the CC (transcript), management trimmed guidance for the negative impact of low interest rates from a $100M hit to earnings to a $35M hit (company made $351M in Q2).

Other insurers on the move: Prudential (PRU +4.8%), Aflac (AFL +2.7%), Hartford (HIG +3.6%), ING US (VOYA +3%), Old Republic (ORI +2.5%).

AIG (AIG +3.4%) nears a new 52-week high ahead of its earnings after the bell.