CNA Financial Shares Popped: What You Need to Know

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of property and casualty insurer CNA Financial (NYSE: CNA  ) were up as much as 11% in intraday trading today after the company announced fourth-quarter earnings.

So what: There's no big secret as to why CNA's stock is hopping today. The company, which is 90%-owned by Loews Corp. (NYSE: L  ) , reported fourth-quarter results that blew expectations away. A property and casualty combined ratio of 89.6% helped drive $1.09 in earnings per share, well above the $0.69 that analysts were expecting. Also buoying bullishness was the announcement that the company is resuming its quarterly dividend with a $0.10-per-share payment in March.

Now what: Like many insurers, CNA stumbled during the financial crisis as its investments were battered. After a loss in 2008 and a rocky 2009, the results from 2010 show a company that's well on its way to recovery. Underscoring the comeback is the company's dividend resumption. CNA was able to put up the dividend green light only after it returned to Loews money it had taken during the financial crisis to bolster its capital position. That CNA paid Loews back and decided to start paying shareholders again shows management's faith in the company's financial strength. With shares still trading well below its $40.70 per-share book value, this could be a stock to keep an eye on.

Want to keep up to date on CNA Financial? Add it to your watchlist.

                

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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or on his RSS feed. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.


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