Should Value Investors Now Choose Southwest Gas (SWX) Stock?
Value investing is easily one of the most popular ways to find great stocks in any market environment. After all, who wouldn’t want to find stocks that are either flying under the radar and are compelling buys, or offer up tantalizing discounts when compared to fair value?
One way to find these companies is by looking at several key metrics and financial ratios, many of which are crucial in the value stock selection process. Let’s put Southwest Gas Corporation SWX stock into this equation and find out if it is a good choice for value-oriented investors right now, or if investors subscribing to this methodology should look elsewhere for top picks:
A key metric that value investors always look at is the Price to Earnings Ratio, or PE for short. This shows us how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of earnings in a given stock, and is easily one of the most popular financial ratios in the world. The best use of the PE ratio is to compare the stock’s current PE ratio with: a) where this ratio has been in the past; b) how it compares to the average for the industry/sector; and c) how it compares to the market as a whole.
On this front, Southwest Gas has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 16.28, as you can see in the chart below:
This level actually compares favorably with the market at large, as the PE for the S&P 500 stands at about 24.31. If we focus on the long-term PE trend, Southwest Gas’ current PE level puts it below its midpoint over the past five years. Moreover, the current level is fairly below the highs for this stock, suggesting it might be a good entry point.
However, the stock’s PE also compares unfavorably with the Zacks Utilities sector’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 16.31. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is slightly undervalued right now, compared to its peers.
We should also point out that Southwest Gas has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of just 17.72, so it is fair to expect an increase in the company’s share price in the near future.
Another key metric to note is the Price/Sales ratio. This approach compares a given stock’s price to its total sales, where a lower reading is generally considered better. Some people like this metric more than other value-focused ones because it looks at sales, something that is far harder to manipulate with accounting tricks than earnings.
Right now, Southwest Gas has a P/S ratio of about 1.15. This is lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.8 right now. Also, as we can see in the chart below, this is somewhat below the highs for this stock in particular over the past few years.
Broad Value Outlook
In aggregate, Southwest Gas currently has a Value Score of B, putting it into the top 40% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes Southwest Gas a solid choice for value investors, and some of its other key metrics make this pretty clear too.
For example, the P/CF ratio for Southwest Gas comes in at 6.89, which is better than the industry average of 8.74. Clearly, SWX is a solid choice on the value front from multiple angles.
What About the Stock Overall?
Though Southwest Gas might be a good choice for value investors, there are plenty of other factors to consider before investing in this name. In particular, it is worth noting that the company has a Growth Score of C and Momentum Score of A. This gives SWX a Zacks VGM score — or its overarching fundamental grade — of A. (You can read more about the Zacks Style Scores here >>)
Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been mixed, at the best. This has had a noticeable impact on the consensus estimate, as the current year consensus estimate declined 1.36% in the past two months, whereas the full-year 2021 estimate increased 0.24%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:
Southwest Gas Corporation Price and Consensus
Owing to the bearish estimate trends, the stock has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), which is why we are looking for in-line performance from the company in the near term.
Southwest Gas is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. However, with a sluggish industry rank (bottom 22% out of more than 250 industries) and a Zacks Rank #3, it is hard to get too excited about this company overall. In fact, over the past two years, the sector has clearly underperformed the market at large, as you can see below:
So, value investors might want to wait for estimates, analyst sentiment and broader factors to turn around in this name first, but once that happens, this stock could be a compelling pick.
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