NEW YORK (AP) — Starting with UnitedHealth on Thursday, health insurers will report their fourth-quarter results over the next two weeks, and a Jefferies & Co. analyst expects the companies and their stocks to do well in early 2012.

Analyst David Windley said he expects to see "solid" fourth quarter results because health care use is still low. He expects that trend to continue in early 2012, causing the stocks to trade higher.

Consumers are visiting the doctor less often and having fewer elective medical procedures as they try to save money, so health care use has been rising more slowly than companies expected when they set their premiums. That means health insurers will profits will be larger than expected.

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