The first-quarter earnings season is wrapping up with results from 75% of the S&P 500 members already on board as per our Earnings Trends report. These 374 index members reported total earnings decline of 7.5% on 1.9% lower revenues. However, the beat ratio is 71.4% for the bottom line and 56.4% for the top line.
About 87.5% of the companies in the Finance sector have already reported their results. Total earnings have declined 7.6% though revenues managed a 0.5% improvement. The beat ratio also compares unfavorably with the S&P 500 index.
The insurance industry is part of the broader finance sector. In the first quarter, insurers had to digest catastrophe losses stemming from the hail storm in north Texas in March. This is weighing on their underwriting results and the bottom line. However, these are unlikely to drain out insurers' capital. Also, a diversified portfolio and geographic expansion may safeguard their performance.
Nonetheless, a still soft interest rate environment will keep investment results under pressure. However, the slight rate rise by the Fed was a silver lining for life insurers which suffered spread compression on products like fixed annuities and universal life due to sustained low rates.
With earnings releases coming in thick and fast, the end of the week will have earnings results from nearly 88% of the index members. Let's find out what's in store for three major insurance companies that will report on May 6.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc . BRK.B is a conglomerate, which has nearly 90 subsidiaries in insurance, rail roads, utilities, manufacturing services, retail and home building. The company has the investment icon Warren Buffet at the helm. Last quarter, the company delivered an 8.0% positive surprise. Berkshire Hathaway has an Earnings ESP of 0.00% and a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the quarter is pegged at $1.75.
Berkshire Hathaway is expected to perform well on the strength of its insurance, financials and manufacturing segments. Strategic acquisitions should continue to support results. However, Berkshire Hathaway's insurance business remains exposed to catastrophe and high expenses incurred on rail road operations, which can taper margins. (Read more: Can Berkshire Hathaway Surprise with Q1 Earnings? )
With respect to the surprise trend, Berkshire Hathaway surpassed expectations in only one of the last four quarters, with an average negative surprise of 3.42%.
Cigna Corp , CI along with its subsidiaries provides health care and related benefits, the majority of which are offered through workplace. The company delivered a 5.06% positive surprise in the last quarter. For the first quarter of 2016, Cigna has an Earnings ESP of +0.46%. It currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).
Cigna is likely to benefit from its strong membership. Exposure to the Medicare Advantage market is expected to add to the upside. Evolving Global Supplemental Benefits should also support Cigna's results. However, restrictions to market or sell Medicare Advantage policies or Part D drug plans to new clients may weigh on its top line. Adverse effect of forex and higher expenses are expected to taper the bottom line. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the quarter is pegged at $2.17. (Read more: Cigna: Can the Stock Surprise this Earnings Season? )
With respect to the surprise trend, Cigna surpassed expectations in each of the last four quarters, with an average beat of 5.69%.
Willis Towers Watson plc , WLTW is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. The company caters to large companies and mid-market and small businesses across the world. Last quarter, Willis Towers delivered a 22.7% negative surprise. Willis Towers has an Earnings ESP of -4.29% and a Zacks Rank #4. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the quarter is pegged at $2.80.
This is the first quarter in which the company will report its earnings after the merger of Willis Group and Towers Watson. The combination of two heavy weights is likely to boost operational results in the to-be-reported quarter. Strategic acquisitions are also expected to add to the top line. However, adverse forex effects, soft interest rates and higher expense may hurt the bottom line. (Read: Willis Towers Q1 Earnings: Stock to Disappoint? )
With respect to the surprise trend, Willis Towers surpassed expectations in only one of the last four quarters, with an average -negative surprise of 11.03%.
Keep an eye on our full earnings articles to see how these S&P 500 members finally fared.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.