Fidelity National Gains as Janney Upgrades on Housing Recovery

Jan 03, 2014 10:58 am ET

Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Fidelity National Financial Inc., the largest U.S. title insurer, rose in New York trading after Janney Capital Markets recommended investors buy the stock to profit from a recovering housing market.

Fidelity gained 1.4 percent to $32.70 at 10:55 a.m. after surging 38 percent last year. The company was previously rated neutral by Janney.

“With an expectation that the improving economy and employment trends will lead to a more robust purchase market in the U.S., we think the space offers an attractive longer term play on the improving real estate cycle,” Janney analysts led by Larry Greenberg wrote in a note to clients today.

The insurer is increasing its focus on the U.S. housing market after yesterday completing its purchase of Lender Processing Services Inc. for more than $3 billion to expand in mortgage servicing. The Jacksonville, Florida-based insurer last month hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to review possible divestitures of assets including restaurant businesses and an auto-parts company.

Home prices in 20 U.S. cities climbed in October from a year earlier by the most in more than seven years. The unemployment rate fell to 7 percent in November, the lowest in five years.

Title insurers use their records and public documents to verify a seller is a property’s true owner and that it is free from liens. The companies collect a one-time premium at the sale and pay costs that may arise if someone disputes the new owner’s right to the property.

Loss ratios will continue to decline because underwriting improved after the period of 2005 to 2008 when the industry faced elevated claims, the analysts wrote.

--Editors: Dan Kraut, Rick Green