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Rising Rates Help Insurance Portfolios

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Financial stocks are starting to show upside leadership at the same time that bond yields are starting to rise. Banks usually benefit from rising bond yields because they can charge higher rates for their loans. Two other financial groups have actually done better than banks this week. They include investment services (brokers) and life insurance. Let's start with life insurance. The black bars in Chart 1 show Prudential Financial (PRU) surging today to a new record high. It's the strongest stock in that group. The black line shows the stock's relative strength ratio turning up this month to a new three-month high. The green line on top shows the 10-Year T-Note yield also climbing this month. A correlation can be seen between the two lines. Prudential underperformed the market between January and May as bond yields were falling. It has been outperforming during September as yields have started to rise. The same analysis is true of other life insurance leaders like Lincoln National (LNC) and Metlife (MET). There's a good reason why insurers benefit from higher rates. They invest three-quarters of their premiums in Treasury bonds. As a result, they receive lower income payments when bond yields are low. Higher yields allow insurers to reinvest maturing bonds in their portfolio in higher yielding bonds.

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