The Zacks Rank Explained: How to Find Strong Buy Finance Stocks

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.

These four factors are assigned a raw score that's recalculated every night, which is then compiled into the ranking system. Stocks are classified into five groups using this data, 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.

These professionals manage the trillions of dollars invested in hedge funds, mutual funds, and investment banks, and studies have shown that they can and do move the market because of the large amounts of money they invest with. Thus, 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 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 T. Rowe Price (TROW), which was added to the Zacks Rank #1 list on April 11, 2024.

Founded in 1937 and headquartered in Baltimore, T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. is a global investment management organization that provides a broad array of mutual funds, sub-advisory services and separate account management for individual and institutional investors, retirement plans and financial intermediaries. Through its subsidiaries, the company manages separate client-focused equity, fixed income and balanced portfolios along with mutual funds. Its client base includes individual investors, defined contribution retirement plans, institutional investors and third-party distributors, among others. The company operates worldwide from the United States, England, Luxembourg, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

Eight analysts revised their earnings estimate higher in the last 60 days for fiscal 2024, while the Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $1.05 to $8.80 per share. TROW also boasts an average earnings surprise of 16.8%.

Analysts are expecting earnings to grow 15.9% for the current fiscal year, with revenue forecasted to rise 10%.

Additionally, TROW has climbed higher over the past four weeks, gaining 7.4%. The S&P 500 is up 5.8% in comparison.

Bottom Line

With a #1 (Strong Buy) ranking, positive trend in earnings estimate revisions, and strong market momentum, T. Rowe Price 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.

Discover Today's Top Stocks

Our private Zacks #1 Rank List, based on our quantitative Zacks Rank stock-rating system, has more than doubled the S&P 500 since 1988. Applying the Zacks Rank in your own trading can boost your investing returns on your very next trade. See Today's Zacks #1 Rank List >>

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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.

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