Whether you're a growth, value, income, or momentum-focused investor, building a successful investment portfolio takes skill, research, and a little bit of luck.
How do you find the right combination of stocks that will generate returns that could fund your retirement, or your kids' college tuition, or your short- and long-term savings goals?
Enter the Zacks Rank.
What is the Zacks Rank?
The Zacks Rank, which is a unique, proprietary stock-rating model, employs earnings estimate revisions, or changes to a company's earnings expectations, that makes building a winning portfolio easier.
There are four main factors behind the Zacks Rank: Agreement, Magnitude, Upside, and Surprise.
Agreement is the extent to which all brokerage analysts are revising their earnings estimates in the same direction. The greater the percentage of analysts revising their estimates higher, the better chance the stock will outperform.
Magnitude is the size of the recent change in the consensus estimate for the current and next fiscal years.
Upside is the difference between the most accurate estimate, which is calculated by Zacks, and the consensus estimate.
Surprise is made up of a company's last few quarters' earnings per share surprises; companies with a positive earnings surprise are more likely to beat expectations in the future.
Each factor is given a raw score, which is recalculated every night and compiled into the Zacks Rank. Utilizing this data, stocks are put into five different groups: Strong Buy, Buy, Hold, Sell, and Strong Sell.
The Power of Institutional Investors
The Zacks Rank also allows individual investors, or retail investors, to benefit from the power of institutional investors.
Institutional investors are the professionals who manage the trillions of dollars invested in mutual funds, investment banks, and hedge funds. Studies have shown that these investors can and do move the market due to the large amounts of money they invest with. Because of this, the market tends to move in the same direction as institutional investors.
These investors are known for designing valuation models that focus on earnings and earnings expectations in order to figure out the fair value of a company and its shares. If earnings estimates are raised, it puts a higher value on a company.
Institutional investors then act on these changes in earnings estimates, typically buying stocks with rising estimates and selling those with falling estimates; an increase in earnings estimates can translate into higher stock prices and bigger gains for the investor.
Since it can often take weeks, if not months, for an institutional investor to build a position (given their size), retail investors who get in at the first sign of upward earnings estimate revisions have a distinct advantage over these larger investors, and can benefit from the expected institutional buying that will follow.
Not only can the Zacks Rank help you take advantage of trends in earnings estimate revisions, but it can also provide a way to get into stocks that are highly sought after by professionals.
How to Invest with the Zacks Rank
The Zacks Rank is known for transforming investment portfolios. In fact, a portfolio of Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks has beaten the market in 26 of the last 32 years, with an average annual return of +25.41%.
Moreover, stocks with a new #1 (Strong Buy) ranking have some of the biggest profit potential, while those that fell to a #4 (Sell) or #5 (Strong Sell) have some of the worst.
Let's take a look at HealthEquity (HQY), which was added to the Zacks Rank #1 list on February 10, 2024.
Draper, UT-headquartered HealthEquity provides integrated solutions for health-care account management, health reimbursement arrangement and flexible spending accounts for health plans, insurance companies and third-party administrators in the United States.
Three analysts revised their earnings estimate higher in the last 60 days for fiscal 2024, while the Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $0.05 to $2.15 per share. HQY also boasts an average earnings surprise of 16.5%.
Analysts are expecting earnings to grow 58.1% for the current fiscal year, with revenue forecasted to rise 15.2%.
HQY has been moving higher over the past four weeks as well, up 10% compared to the S&P 500's gain of 5.8%.
With a #1 (Strong Buy) ranking, positive trend in earnings estimate revisions, and strong market momentum, HealthEquity should be on investors' shortlist.
If you want even more information on the Zacks Ranks, or one of our many other investing strategies, check out the Zacks Education home page.
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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.