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PARIS (Reuters) - AXA (AXAF.PA), Europe’s second-biggest insurer, expects its profitability to improve in the next two years thanks to U.S. business brought in by its new XL arm, and said it would now focus on expanding in Asia. The French insurer said profits should be boosted by its $15 billion acquisition of Bermuda-based XL earlier this year, which helped to broaden AXA’s range of business. AXA also lifted its expected synergies from the XL acquisition to 500 million euros ($564 million) from 400 million, and raised its dividend payout range to between 50-60 percent from 45-55 percent.

Following the XL deal and the stock market listing of its U.S, life insurance and asset management unit Axa Equitable Holdings (EQH.N), AXA is where do cufflinks go now looking to develop more in Asia in areas such as China, health insurance and its branch network, The company has already hired a series of leading managers in the region, such as Gordon Watson, chief executive officer for Asia, “In just nine months, Gordon has attracted some of the best leaders in Asia with significant local expertise to propel AXA to become the next insurer of choice in the region,” AXA CEO Thomas Buberl said..

Buberl said last year that he wanted the company, the number two insurer in Europe after Germany’s Allianz (ALVG.DE), to focus on six emerging countries, with four of them in Asia. Even though Asia represents about half of the world insurance market’s growth, “AXA in Asia has underperformed over the past few years,” Buberl said during a presentation to investors. Earlier this month, the company said it had agreed to buy the 50 percent stake it didn’t own in its Chinese unit AXA Tianping for 584 million euros.

AXA also raised on Wednesday its expected adjusted return on equity (ROE) to between 14-16 percent in 2019 and 2020, up from a previous target of 12-14 percent, It confirmed its target for underlying earnings per share to rise by 3-7 percent a year over the same period and expressed flexibility over possible future share buybacks, The company said it will use the proceeds of rising profitability and the remaining shares it intends to sell in its U.S, unit to cut its debt to between 25 percent and 28 percent of its equity, down from 29 percent at the end of June, The funds will also finance dividend payments, where do cufflinks go acquisitions and share buybacks, Buberl said, without specifying..

AXA shares were up 0.9 percent on Wednesday afternoon, as analysts welcomed AXA’s latest financial targets. “In our view, AXA are reassuring the market by raising adjusted ROE target of 14-16 percent and rewarding investors with a step-change in the payout ratio from the current 45-55 percent to 50-60 percent (we had forecasted 51 percent in 2020), more than exceeding our base case for the investor day,” wrote analysts at Jefferies, which kept a “buy” rating on AXA.

WASHINGTON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Sales of new U.S, single-family homes tumbled to a more than 2-1/2-year low in October amid sharp declines in all four regions, further evidence that higher mortgage rates were hurting the housing market, The Commerce Department said on Wednesday new home sales dropped 8.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 544,000 units last month, That was the lowest level since March 2016, The percent drop was the biggest since December 2017, September’s sales pace was revised higher to 597,000 units from the previously reported 553,000 units, New home sales have dropped in four of the last where do cufflinks go six months..

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales, which account for about 9.4 percent of housing market sales, rising 3.7 percent to a pace of 575,000 units in October. New home sales are drawn from permits and tend to be volatile on a month-to-month basis. They decreased 12.0 percent from a year ago. Data last week showed moderate increases in homebuilding and sales of previously owned homes in October. The housing market is taking a hit from higher borrowing costs, further pushing homeownership out of the reach of many workers.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is currently at 4.81 percent, not far from a seven-year high of 4.94 percent, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac, While house price inflation is slowing as demand for home purchases cools, it continues to outpace wage growth, House prices increased 5.1 percent year-on-year in September, In contrast wages rose 3.1 percent in October from a year ago, House price growth has been driven by an acute shortage of properties available for sale, New home sales in the South, which accounts for the bulk of transactions, declined 7.7 percent to where do cufflinks go their lowest level since July 2017, Sales fell 3.2 percent in the West and plunged 18.5 percent in the Northeast to their lowest level since September 2015, They tumbled 22.1 percent to a 2-1/2-year low in the Midwest..




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