Why Hartford's Hardly Moved in 2012

As we approach the halfway point for 2012, now's a good time to look back at what's happening with the stocks that interest you. By making sure you know the important things that a company accomplished -- as well as the setbacks it experienced -- you can make a better decision about whether it's a smart investment for your portfolio.

Today, let's take a look at Hartford Financial (NYSE: HIG  ) . The insurance company took a big hit during the financial crisis, as the guarantees that it made on some of its annuity and life insurance products brought big losses to the company. As a result, the company has had to make some big changes in order to adjust to the new market environment. Let's take a quick look at how the stock is doing so far this year.

Stats on Hartford Financial

2012 YTD Return 1.7%
Market Capitalization $7.2 billion
Total Revenue, Most Recent Quarter $7.66 billion
Year-Over-Year Revenue Growth, Most Recent Quarter 21.6%
Net Income, Most Recent Quarter $96 million
Year-Over-Year Net Income Growth, Most Recent Quarter (80.8%)
CAPS Rating ****

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Why is Hartford treading water?
Hartford had a pretty poor 2011, losing more than a third of its share price in a very bad year for insurance companies generally. Property and casualty peer Allstate (NYSE: ALL  ) saw storms in the second quarter of 2011 push casualty losses to $2.34 billion, almost quadrupling levels from the year-ago quarter. For Hartford's part, the insurer dodged a bullet as Hurricane Irene turned out not to be as damaging as initial estimates had guessed, but even so, earnings per share sank by almost half from 2010 levels.

Several insurance companies have taken some pretty bold steps in the face of the difficulties that a low-interest rate environment and a challenging stock market have created. Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW  ) decided to stop writing variable annuities in early 2011, while Prudential (NYSE: PRU  ) and MetLife (NYSE: MET  ) have stopped taking new applications for long-term care insurance policies. But Hartford is taking even more drastic measures, having stopped writing new annuities entirely as of April and reportedly looking for strategic alternatives, including a possible sale, for its individual life insurance, retirement plan, and broker-dealer businesses.

But some of the stock's recent decline may stem from activist investor John Paulson choosing to scale back his holdings of Hartford during the first quarter. Moreover, financial stocks have been weak in May and June, as fears about Europe hurt the stock market and have pushed bond yields even lower, creating more problems for insurance companies.

Going forward, Hartford seems to be focusing on its property and casualty insurance business, along with mutual funds and employer-group-related benefits. If these businesses can produce better margins than annuities and other financial services, then Hartford could well gain from the moves in the long run.

After its decline, Hartford boasts a dividend yield of about 2.4%. But we think you can do better than that. To get some ideas for dividend stocks with strong and growing yields, check out The Motley Fool's special report on dividends. Inside, you'll discover nine stocks that will help you secure your future. It's free, so click here and get your copy today!

Click here to add Hartford Financial to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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