3 Reasons Why Growth Investors Shouldn't Overlook HCA (HCA)
Growth stocks are attractive to many investors, as above-average financial growth helps these stocks easily grab the market's attention and produce exceptional returns. However, it isn't easy to find a great growth stock.
By their very nature, these stocks carry above-average risk and volatility. Moreover, if a company's growth story is over or nearing its end, betting on it could lead to significant loss.
However, the Zacks Growth Style Score (part of the Zacks Style Scores system), which looks beyond the traditional growth attributes to analyze a company's real growth prospects, makes it pretty easy to find cutting-edge growth stocks.
Our proprietary system currently recommends HCA Healthcare (HCA) as one such stock. This company not only has a favorable Growth Score, but also carries a top Zacks Rank.
Research shows that stocks carrying the best growth features consistently beat the market. And for stocks that have a combination of a Growth Score of A or B and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy), returns are even better.
Here are three of the most important factors that make the stock of this hospital operator a great growth pick right now.
Earnings growth is arguably the most important factor, as stocks exhibiting exceptionally surging profit levels tend to attract the attention of most investors. For growth investors, double-digit earnings growth is highly preferable, as it is often perceived as an indication of strong prospects (and stock price gains) for the company under consideration.
While the historical EPS growth rate for HCA is 14%, investors should actually focus on the projected growth. The company's EPS is expected to grow 51% this year, crushing the industry average, which calls for EPS growth of 29.6%.
Cash Flow Growth
Cash is the lifeblood of any business, but higher-than-average cash flow growth is more beneficial and important for growth-oriented companies than for mature companies. That's because, high cash accumulation enables these companies to undertake new projects without raising expensive outside funds.
Right now, year-over-year cash flow growth for HCA is 7.3%, which is higher than many of its peers. In fact, the rate compares to the industry average of 6.7%.
While investors should actually consider the current cash flow growth, it's worth taking a look at the historical rate too for putting the current reading into proper perspective. The company's annualized cash flow growth rate has been 9.4% over the past 3-5 years versus the industry average of 6%.
Promising Earnings Estimate Revisions
Beyond the metrics outlined above, investors should consider the trend in earnings estimate revisions. A positive trend is a plus here. Empirical research shows that there is a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock price movements.
There have been upward revisions in current-year earnings estimates for HCA. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has surged 18.5% over the past month.
While the overall earnings estimate revisions have made HCA a Zacks Rank #1 stock, it has earned itself a Growth Score of A based on a number of factors, including the ones discussed above.
This combination indicates that HCA is a potential outperformer and a solid choice for growth investors.
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