Travelers (NYSE:TRV) boosted its dividend Tuesday as the insurer posted a first-quarter profit that beat the Street, aided by ongoing price hikes.
Shares leapt 3.18% to $87.27 in early morning trading. The stock is up nearly 22% so far this year.
Chief Executive Jay Fishman has pushed for higher prices for more than two years in an effort to improve profit margins. The price increases are meant to offset costs from natural disasters and declines in interest rates that have limited gains from Travelers’ investment portfolio.
The company’s first-quarter profit rose 11% to $896 million, or $2.33 a share, up from $806, or $2.02 a share, in the prior year. On an operating basis, Travelers reported earnings of $2.31 a share, the insurer’s highest quarterly profit since going public in 2002.
Analysts expected per-share earnings of just $2.02.
Fishman said the latest quarter results “reflect continued improvement in our underlying underwriting margins primarily due to the pricing and underwriting actions we have taken across all segments. Our high quality investment portfolio continued to perform well, with returns modestly declining in line with our expectations given continued low interest rates.”
Travelers also benefited in the latest period from lower catastrophe costs, which dropped 40% to $65 million. Combined ratio, or the amount spent on claims and expenses for every dollar collected in premiums, checked in at 88.5 cents.