Progressive (NYSE:PGR) is certainly a well-know fixture for consumers. It’s the No. 3 auto insurer in the country and has a foothold in the home insurance market.
What many don’t realize is PGR has been in the insurance business since 1965 and is one of the most consistent leaders in incorporating new technology into the property & casualty (P&C) sector.
Up until recently, insurers were enjoying an ideal market. Slow, steady growth and low interest rates meant consumers were comfortable, and looking to upgrade cars, houses, jet skis, motorcycles, and the like.
And the strong dollar was very helpful since Progressive, like all insurers, has to keep a chunk of the cash it gets from premiums in cash or cash alternatives like U.S. Treasury bonds so it can pay out any potential losses.
The rest of cash it can invest to help boost its returns. Insuring more things that are newer means more premium growth, which means more money to invest.
When you have falling rates on Treasuries, you have rising prices, which means PGR is making money on its cash equivalents. And when the stock market is strong, it means PGR is making money on its investments.
In Q2, which was reported in mid-July, PGR’s net investment income was up 43% compared to the same quarter last year. Its unrealized equity gains were up $505 million, compared to a $102 million loss last year.
The auto insurance line grew premiums 15% year over year, and including all lines, business was up 12%. This includes losses from the Midwest floods and the fires out West.
There was also a recent report from the Swiss Re Institute that insured losses in the first half of 2019 were down 30%. That is a great environment for a P&C insurer and PGR stock. It means that much more of its money can be earning instead of being paid out on claims.
Company Expansion Will Help PGR Stock
Moving forward, which is what Progressive does relentlessly, judging by its Q2 investor presentation, the company is looking to expand its commercial vehicle and property insurance sector.
This is a huge and expanding market where PGR has some exposure, but it seems it’s looking to make significant inroads, given the fact that its entire Q2 presentation was about the market and the opportunities within the market.
This sector covers everything from fleet vehicles to contractor programs (heavy duty machinery and equipment), to for-hire transportation (contracted tractor trailers and drivers) as well as everything in between. It even includes Uber (UBER) drivers.
The point is, Progressive is already taking advantage of the evolving gig economy within its product lines.
PGR stock is up 20% in the past year and 29% year to date. And because it’s a U.S.-focused company, international issues aren’t significant for PGR. That’s why my Portfolio Grader gives PGR stock an A and continues to rate is as a strong buy.