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Earnings season is upon us, and once again companies are outperforming expectations. More than three-quarters of companies that have reported so far have shown up analysts, including all eight reporting members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) .
Tomorrow we'll find out how Travelers' (NYSE: TRV ) quarter went. Analysts are expecting the first major reporting property and casualty insurer to pull down an operating profit of $1.38 per share -- up from the $0.91 it lost in the same quarter last year because of natural disasters. This quarter, of course, was no walk in the park for insurers as far as disasters go, either, with competitors such as Hartford Financial (NYSE: HIG ) and Chubb (NYSE: CB ) announcing big losses.
Pricing has strengthened a bit recently -- the stock gained a whopping 8% in just a week last quarter on hopes of continued underwriting performance. But some analysts aren't so sure. Investors will also want to pay attention to whether the trend toward better pricing continues to improve or may be stagnating. The bulk of Travelers' insurance is for businesses, so the commercial market is especially important.
Finally, Travelers has created some new products in recent months, such as a wind credit for fortified homes ahead of hurricane season. It'll be interesting to see how these new ideas are performing.
Besides Travelers, the Dow is has a few other solid blue-chip dividend payers with highly sustainable business models built for the long haul. For more stock ideas, check out the stocks highlighted in The Motley Fool's new special free report, "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need," which all have an X factor that makes them stand out from their illustrious Dow peers. Download it now, for free.