May 14, 2009 / 7:44 PM / 9 years ago

Genworth leads life insurance stocks rally

NEW YORK, May 14 (Reuters) - Shares of Genworth Financial (GNW.N), a provider of mortgage and life insurance, led a rally in U.S. life insurance stocks on Thursday.

Raymond James, in a research report, said it was raising its 12-month share target price for Genworth to $5.50 from $3, citing strength in the company’s U.S. retirement and protection business.

Analyst Steven Schwartz said he also expected price appreciation for shares across the sector.

Shares of Genworth rose as much as 26 percent, followed by Hartford Financial (HIG.N), as much as 22 percent higher, and Lincoln National (LNC.N), which rose 16 percent in intra-day trading on Friday.

Life insurers have been broadly hurt in recent months by weaker financial markets, which have cut into investment returns and incurred higher costs for annuity products that are impacted when market values fall.

The Dow Jones U.S. Life Insurance Index .DJUSIL has fallen by more than half in the last 12 months, according to Reuters data.

    The index rallied more than 7 percent on Thursday.

    In late trading Genworth was up 17.4 percent at $4.87 after touching $5.24 earlier in the session; Hartford’s stock was also up more than 17 percent at $14.75 off a day high of $15.37; and Lincoln’s stock was up 11.5 percent at $16.09, after reaching $16.76 earlier in the day.

    Reporting by Lilla Zuill

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