Why United Fire Group Inc. Shares Are Red Hot

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 United Fire Group (NASDAQ: UFCS  ) , a property and casualty insurer, as well as life insurance product and fixed annuity marketer in the U.S., vaulted higher by as much as 15% after reporting its fourth-quarter earnings results before the opening bell.

So what: For the quarter, United Fire Group reported operating income per diluted share of $1 compared to just $0.12 per share in the year-ago period as considerably fewer catastrophe losses weighed on its results relative to fiscal 2012. Comparatively speaking, Wall Street had only been expecting a profit of $0.62 per share for the quarter. Overall, consolidated net investment income rose 18.5% for the quarter to $30 million, while book value increased to $30.87 per share, a nearly 7% rise from where it ended last year. In its P&C segment, net premiums earned rose 9% to $182.4 million as catastrophe losses fell 90% to just $3 million during the quarter.

Now what: The great thing about P&C insurers is that they can simply boost premium pricing as needed to help offset catastrophe losses. The downside, though, is that the weather is brutally unpredictable, so you just never know when a major disaster is going to strike. Over the very long term, United Fire has shown a strong tendency to grow its book value and reward shareholders with a dividend often in the 2% range. This report demonstrates those consistent tendencies, and I would certainly suggest that shareholders not lose sleep or overreact to a single quarterly report from this company.

United Fire Group is scorching higher today, but it'll probably have a hard time keeping up with this top stock in 2014
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