A Big Upgrade for Prudential Financial

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After spending much of the past two years at a less-than-impressive two-star rank, Prudential Financial (NYSE: PRU  ) has impressed enough top-performing members of our 170,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community to climb out of the rut and up to three stars. A total of 614 members have given their opinion on the financial services firm, with many of them offering analysis explaining the recent optimism.

With earnings improving and both trailing and forward earnings multiples in the single digits, more CAPS members are warming up to Prudential Financial as a good long-term value play. The company saw a big increase in revenue and earnings in the second quarter, with top-line growth of 39%. Operating income, excluding net realized investment gains and losses, also blew past analysts' expectations.

Prudential wasn't the only company showing strong results. Several others in the broader insurance industry posted similar upticks in business in the second quarter. Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B  ) saw underwriting profits from its insurance unit jump about sevenfold, while MetLife (NYSE: MET  ) and auto and property insurer Allstate (NYSE: ALL  ) both posted market-beating operating income.

Prudential is aware of the uncertainties that linger in global financial markets. But in contrast to Hartford Financial's (NYSE: HIG  ) lowered expectations for the year, Prudential's CEO said the company's on track to meet its financial targets, and has never been more confident in its long-term prospects. Many CAPS members responded positively to that outlook, believing in the company's strong brand and healthy competitive position.

The company may soon get a much bigger contribution from international markets as well. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Prudential is eyeing two AIG (NYSE: AIG  ) life insurance companies in Japan. Prudential has generated earnings in Japan for decades -- a country that's been the driving force behind outsized returns for insurer Aflac (NYSE: AFL  ) -- and has previously expressed an interest in expanding there. Overall, CAPS members like its position at home and abroad, and believe it will take advantage of a potential recovery in the coming years.   

Do you think Prudential Financial deserves its elevated status? Add your thoughts in the comments box below, or head over to CAPS to rate the company and check out all the information the community offers.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock recently upgraded his BBQ set with a slick new spatula and chef hat. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Berkshire Hathaway is an Inside Value pick. AFLAC and Berkshire Hathaway are Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of AFLAC and Berkshire Hathaway.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Fool's disclosure policy walks like a duck and talks like a duck, but it's not a duck.

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