Building a successful investment portfolio takes skill and hard work, no matter if you're a growth, value, income, or momentum-focused investor.
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 is a unique, proprietary stock-rating model that utilizes earnings estimate revisions to help investors build a winning portfolio.
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 one of these factors is given a raw score that's recalculated every night, and then compiled into the Zacks Rank. Using this data, stocks are classified into five groups, ranging from "Strong Buy" to "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.
In order to determine the fair value of a company and its shares, institutional investors design valuation models that focus on earnings and earnings estimates. Because if you raise earnings estimates, it then creates a higher fair value for a company and its stock price.
Institutional investors will use these changes to help in their decision-making, typically buying stocks with rising estimates and selling those with falling estimates. Higher earnings expectations can translate into a rise in stock price and bigger gains for the investor.
Because it can take a long time for an institutional investor to build a position -- sometimes weeks, if not months -- retail investors who get in at the first sign of upward 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 Pfizer (PFE), which was added to the Zacks Rank #1 list on January 4, 2022.
With eight blockbuster products in its portfolio, New York-based, Pfizer, Inc. boasts a sustainable pipeline with multiple late-stage programs that can drive growth. Pfizer markets a wide range of drugs and vaccines. Its business comprises six business units — Oncology, Inflammation & Immunology, Rare Disease, Hospital, Vaccines and Internal Medicine. In November 2020, Pfizer spinned-off its Upjohn unit, its off-patent branded and generic established medicines business, and combined it with generic drugmaker Mylan to create a new generic pharmaceutical company to be called Viatris. The Consumer Healthcare (CHC) segment, an over-the-counter (OTC) medicines business, was merged with Glaxo’s unit in July 2019 to form a new joint venture (JV). Pfizer owns a stake of 32% in the JV and Glaxo owns the remaining 68%.
For fiscal 2021, two analysts revised their earnings estimate upwards in the last 60 days, and the Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $0 to $4.18 per share. PFE boasts an average earnings surprise of 10.9%.
Earnings are expected to grow 88.3% for the current fiscal year, while revenue is projected to increase 71.1%.
Additionally, PFE has climbed higher over the past four weeks, gaining 8.6%. The S&P 500 is down 9.7% in comparison.
With a #1 (Strong Buy) ranking, positive trend in earnings estimate revisions, and strong market momentum, Pfizer 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.