Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (HIG): The Company Will Look a Lot Different This Quarter

Next Monday, Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (NYSE:HIG) will release its latest quarterly results. The key to making smart investment decisions on stocks reporting earnings is to anticipate how they’ll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you’ll be less likely to make an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Hartford logoConditions in the insurance industry have been tough, with low interest rates and catastrophic events pressuring margins. Yet, even as its peers have taken steps to shore up their finances, Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (NYSE:HIG) has taken much more dramatic action to transform its entire business. Let’s take an early look at what’s been happening with Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (NYSE:HIG) over the past quarter and what we’re likely to see in its quarterly report.

Stats on Hartford Financial

Analyst EPS Estimate $0.83
Change From Year-Ago EPS (34%)
Revenue Estimate $5.37 billion
Change From Year-Ago Revenue (30%)
Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters 2

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

How will Hartford Financial’s earnings fare?
Analysts have been cautiously optimistic about Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (NYSE:HIG)’s earnings prospects in recent months, with a net increase of $0.02 per share in their calls for the just-ended quarter. The stock has done quite a bit better, rising 13% since mid-January.

Like many insurance companies, Hartford felt a substantial impact from Hurricane Sandy in last quarter’s results. Although the company’s $350 million in losses was far less than the billion-dollar hits that Travelers Companies Inc (NYSE:TRV) and The Allstate Corporation (NYSE:ALL) suffered, as well as the $2 billion pre-tax wallop that American International Group Inc (NYSE:AIG) felt from the storm, Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (NYSE:HIG) nevertheless owed its overall loss last quarter just about entirely to Sandy’s effects.

But the good news for Hartford will come now and in future quarters, as insurance premiums are able to rise based on adverse loss experiences from Sandy and previous disasters. Already, Travelers Companies Inc (NYSE:TRV) has reported sharply better results because of a relatively uneventful quarter, and investors expect The Allstate Corporation (NYSE:ALL) to show a similar recovery to Travelers and Hartford.

Yet, the true measure of Hartford’s confidence in its property and casualty insurance business comes from the fact that it has followed a similar strategy to American International Group Inc (NYSE:AIG) by selling off many of its other businesses, including the individual life-insurance and annuity areas as well as its retirement plans business. Annuity and life-insurance products that offered guarantees to policyholders, which protected them from adverse movements in the stock market, hurt Hartford quite a bit. Having taken years to recover, Hartford will much more closely resemble a pure P&C insurer going forward, although it will retain some other ancillary coverage lines.

In Hartford’s report, watch for the company’s outlook on the returns from its investment portfolio going forward. With many companies taking on more risk to try to drive better gains from investments, you’ll want to gauge where Hartford stands among its peers.

The article Hartford Financial Will Look a Lot Different This Quarter originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger owns warrants on AIG and Hartford Financial. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends AIG. The Motley Fool owns shares of and Long Jan 2014 $25 Calls on AIG.

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