It doesn't matter if you're a growth, value, income, or momentum-focused investor -- building a successful investment portfolio takes skill, research, and a little bit of luck.
But how do you find the right combination of stocks? Funding your retirement, your kids' college tuition, or your short- and long-term savings goals certainly requires significant returns.
Enter the Zacks Rank.
What is the Zacks Rank?
A unique, proprietary stock-rating model, the Zacks Rank uses earnings estimate revisions, or changes to a company's earnings expectations, to help investors create 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 responsible for managing the trillions of dollars invested in mutual funds, hedge funds, and investment banks. Research has shown that these investors can and do move the market due to the large amount of money they deal with, and thus, the market tends to move in the same direction as them.
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.
With these changes, institutional investors will act, usually buying stocks with rising estimates and selling those with falling estimates. An increase in earnings expectations can potentially lead to higher stock prices 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 Apple (AAPL), which was added to the Zacks Rank #1 list on September 9, 2021.
Apple’s business primarily runs around its flagship iPhone. However, the Services portfolio that includes revenues from cloud services, App store, Apple Music, AppleCare, Apple Pay, and licensing and other services now became the cash cow.
For fiscal 2021, 11 analysts revised their earnings estimate upwards in the last 60 days, and the Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $0.40 to $5.59 per share. AAPL boasts an average earnings surprise of 23.7%.
Analysts are expecting earnings to grow 70.4% for the current fiscal year, with revenue forecasted to rise 33.8%.
Additionally, AAPL has climbed higher over the past four weeks, gaining 0.5%. The S&P 500 is down 0.6% in comparison.
With a #1 (Strong Buy) ranking, positive trend in earnings estimate revisions, and strong market momentum, Apple 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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