If you're aiming to "buy low and sell high," then it makes infinite sense to start your search with bargain-priced stocks. Regularly reviewing a list of stocks trading near their 52-week lows can be a great first step.

Here, I'll try to do the initial legwork for you. To prevent us from being inundated with scores of disparate companies, I'll conduct my search by industry. This will allow us to make some initial comparisons among semi-related companies.

There are 24 industry groups as defined by the Global Industry Classification Standard. Insurance is one of them. Here are the largest by market cap that are hugging 52-week lows.

Company

Market Capitalization (in millions)

% Change From 52-Week Low

Price-to-Book Ratio

 

China Life Insurance (NYSE: LFC)

$115,671

                         18.6%

                         4.5

The Travelers Cos. (NYSE: TRV)

$25,567

                         16.9%

                        1.0

Manulife Financial Corp. (NYSE: MFC)

$21,971

                         12.8%

                        0.8

Sun Life Financial (NYSE: SLF)

$15,250

                         15.3%

                        0.9

Aon (NYSE: AON)

$13,210

                         14.1%

                         2.0

AEGON N.V.

$10,969

                         16.3%

                        0.3

PartnerRe

$6,146

                         17.6%

                        0.9

Reinsurance Group of America

$3,572

                         14.3%

                        0.8

Markel (NYSE: MKL)

$3,402

                          9.9%

                         1.2

Fidelity National Financial (NYSE: FNF)

$3,328

                         16.0%

                        1.0

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data as of Oct. 18.

Insurance companies make their money collecting premiums up front and then paying out as misfortune hits. Because of the erratic nature of these payouts and because some of the returns they make on the assets they buy with these premiums won't hit the income statement regularly, price-to-book is a better first-look metric than price-to-earnings.

As always, initial numbers are just a start. Of this list of 10, two are recommendations of our Inside Value service: Markel and Fidelity National Financial. And both are middle-of-this-pack in terms of price-to-book.

Specialty insurance provider Markel has been compared often to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. High praise, for sure. The Inside Value analysts rank Markel as both a "Core Stock" and a "Best Buy Now." This is certainly an insurance company to look into if you're looking at the sector.

Interested in reading more about these stocks? Add them to My Watchlist to find all of our Foolish analysis on these stocks.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. He posts his favorite articles on his Twitter feed.

The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Fidelity National Financial, and Markel, which are all Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Berkshire Hathaway is also a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation.

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