Why Amerisafe Inc. Shares Soared

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 Amerisafe (NASDAQ: AMSF  ) , an underwriter of workers compensation insurance for small- to mid-sized businesses in the manufacturing, transportation, and energy sectors, gained as much as 17% after reporting its fourth-quarter earnings results after the bell last night and boosting its quarterly dividend.

So what: For the quarter, Amerisafe reported a 10% increase in net revenue to $94.3 million, which included a 12% increase in net premiums written and led to an 84% increase in adjusted EPS to $0.90 from $0.49 in the year-ago period. Amerisafe CEO Allen Bradley noted that tight cost controls and improved premium pricing led to these "stellar results." By comparison, Wall Street had only been expecting Amerisafe to report a profit of $0.56 per share on $92.4 million in net revenue. In addition to its solid quarterly results, Amerisafe announced a 50% increase in its quarterly dividend to $0.12, and declared a special dividend of $0.50/share, which will be payable on March 28, 2014.

Now what: This was about as perfect of a quarter as you're going to get from a workers compensation underwriter. Higher prices, lower expenses, and very modest claim growth, coupled with a growing book value and a beefier dividend are a good recipe to send Amerisafe's share price even higher. At less than 14 times forward earnings, the company is still relatively inexpensive, but I'll admit that this quarter could be very tough to duplicate, so investors may want to keep that in mind.

Amerisafe shares may be soaring today, but they'll likely have a hard time keeping pace with this top stock in 2014
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