What’s Driving These Insurers Higher?

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The adverse impacts of "home bias" investing, the tendency for investors to hold primarily domestic investments, may be dwindling. Historically, investing in domestically domiciled companies left portfolios greatly exposed to country-specific events. However, as international revenues continue to make up a larger portion of U.S. companies' total revenues, investors in these companies are becoming increasingly exposed to global events, both positive and negative.

Haruhiko Kuroda: Deflation Fighter
Shares of MetLife (NYSE: MET  ) and Prudential Financial (NYSE: PRU  ) moved higher today after Haruhiko Kuroda, expected to be Japan's next top central banker, vowed to launch significant monetary easing plans to combat the growth-crippling deflation that has hindered growth in the world's third largest economy. Both U.S. companies have considerable exposure the Japanese economy. Around 30% of Prudential's 2012 revenue was derived from its Japanese operations, while 16% of MetLife's revenue came from the island nation.

Waddling through Japan
Japan is not an undiscovered opportunity for U.S. insurers. Although most American consumers associate Aflac (NYSE: AFL  ) with a squawking duck and supplemental coverage, Japanese citizens recognize the company as the number one life insurance provider in the country in terms of individual policies. In 2012, Aflac Japan accounted for 77% of all Aflac revenue and a staggering 87% of total assets. These insurance companies offer international exposure to investors who are wary of investing in American Depositary Receipts or in non-U.S. public markets.

Opportunity abound
As barriers to international expansions continue to fall in emerging markets, companies that offer specialized products, such as supplemental health insurance, have an opportunity to establish new revenue streams. Although country-specific regulations and political risks will always have to be navigated, companies with existing international exposure will have the expertise to establish a meaningful presence. As the natural evolution of international expansion continues, the risk associated with "homes bias" will undoubtedly shrink. 

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