Growth investors focus on stocks that are seeing above-average financial growth, as this feature helps these securities garner the market's attention and deliver solid 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, it's pretty easy to find cutting-edge growth stocks with the help of 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.
Cigna (CI) is on the list of such stocks currently recommended by our proprietary system. In addition to a favorable Growth Score, it carries a top Zacks Rank.
Studies have shown that stocks with the best growth features consistently outperform the market. And returns are even better for stocks that possess the combination of a Growth Score of A or B and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy).
While there are numerous reasons why the stock of this health insurer is a great growth pick right now, we have highlighted three of the most important factors below:
Arguably nothing is more important than earnings growth, as surging profit levels is what most investors are after. 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 Cigna is 20.8%, investors should actually focus on the projected growth. The company's EPS is expected to grow 8.6% this year, crushing the industry average, which calls for EPS growth of -9.5%.
Cash Flow Growth
While cash is the lifeblood of any business, higher-than-average cash flow growth is more important and beneficial for growth-oriented companies than for mature companies. That's because, growth in cash flow enables these companies to expand their businesses without depending on expensive outside funds.
Right now, year-over-year cash flow growth for Cigna is 138.2%, which is higher than many of its peers. In fact, the rate compares to the industry average of 7.2%.
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 31.4% over the past 3-5 years versus the industry average of 1.7%.
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 Cigna. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has surged 0.1% over the past month.
Cigna has not only earned a Growth Score of B based on a number of factors, including the ones discussed above, but it also carries a Zacks Rank #2 because of the positive earnings estimate revisions.
This combination indicates that Cigna is a potential outperformer and a solid choice for growth investors.
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