Earnings season is just underway and we still have yet to see
a clear picture of revenue growth, profitability and margin. With the 25 reports or so that have come in, it’s
been a very mixed picture. While there
haven’t been any bullish standouts, there have been several high-profile
negative surprises. Adding to the disappointment
today was Fortinet ((FTNT - Analyst Report)); its shares dropped by 18% after results and expectations missed
Wall Street’s expectations.
The bottom line is that growth expectations remain weak, a
reflection of underwhelming management guidance and tough comparisons. Tough comparisons and weak management
guidance account for the weak earnings growth picture. Total earnings reached their
highest quarterly total in the first quarter of 2012 and have yet to get back
to that level.
Total Q1 earnings are expected to be down -2.6% from the same
period last year, which reflects -0.9% drop in revenues and a modest
contraction in margins. It is amazing
that the S&P 500 is up 15% in that same time frame.
As we continue our search for stocks that have a high likelihood
of beating estimates, the Zacks Earnings ESP can be a useful tool in your
search. Here are a few companies that
look promising next week:
About Zacks Earnings ESP
Earnings ESP is Zacks’ proprietary methodology for determining which stocks
have the best chance to surprise with their next earnings announcement. The
Earnings ESP shows the percentage difference between the Most Accurate Estimate
and the Consensus. The Zacks ESP helps predict earnings surprises to the upside
and downside; the greater the ESP (positive or negative) the greater the
likelihood for a surprise. I use ESP to help quantify the conviction of the
analysts for a surprise and stack the odds in my favor when I combine it with
other measurements and statistics.
The Accuracy of ESP
Of course, some ESP numbers are better than others. In our testing, over the
last 10 years, we have found that stocks with a positive ESP and with a Zacks
Rank of 1, 2 or 3 (Strong Buy, Buy or Hold), produced a positive surprise 70%
of the time. (The other 9% of the time, they reported in line with
expectations, with a negative surprise occurring only 21% of the time.)
Bullish ESP Stocks
Yahoo! ((YHOO - Analyst Report)) is
a Zacks Rank #1 stock with a positive earnings ESP of 2.04% for the current
quarter. The company is expected to make 24 cents a share, but our ESP
readings are looking for a profit of 25 cents.
While the ESP for Yahoo may not be extreme, they have beat estimates the
last 4 quarters in a row with an average beat of 35.13% over the Zacks
Marissa Meyer has made sweeping changes to the “old tech” company to
revive its core search business and grow its other competencies. YHOO recently made the news when it recently
forked over $30 million for news summarization app Summly and its 17-year old
It’s this aggressiveness and
innovative technology that may continue to drive Yahoo’s shares higher.
– Yahoo! reports earnings on April 16th.
Goldman Sachs ((GS - Analyst Report)) is
a Zacks Rank #3 stock with a positive earnings ESP of 4.80% for the current
quarter; the Zacks Consensus is for a per share profit of $3.75. with the most
accurate at $3.89.
Financials are not expected to have a stellar quarter, which should help
keep expectations low for this financial giant that trades at just 11 times forward
Expectations are for Goldman to grow earnings at 9.4% this year on
The majority of analyst action has been bullish and we have seen
estimates on the rise for the current quarter as well as FY 2013 and FY 2014
since Goldman’s last report. Q2 estimates
have come down slightly to $2.93 from $2.98.
– Goldman reports earnings on April 16th.
Blackstone Group ((BX - Analyst Report)) is
a Zacks Rank #3 stock with a positive earnings ESP of 5.66% for the current
quarter. The Zacks consensus estimate is for Q1 EPS of $0.53 with the
most accurate estimate coming in at $0.56.
Like the rest of the finance sector, expectations are muted for this global
investment and advisory firm as it only trades at 9.45 times forward earnings.
What I find interesting and compelling is that the company is expected to
see almost 20% earnings growth in 2013 on a 25.2% rise in revenues; not the
sort of growth outlook expected for such a modest valuation. The current PEG ratio is rather low at 0.48.
– Blackstone reports earnings on April 18th.
Now that you know which groups of stocks to focus on to increase your chances
of a positive surprise, let’s look at the size of the ESP that has historically
generated the best results.
just having a positive ESP produces market beating results. Over the last 10
years, using a 1 week holding period (stocks were held for no more than one
week after they reported), the average annual return was 23.5%. This is in
stark contrast to stocks with a negative ESP which produced a -9.20% return.
apply the Zacks Rank of 1, 2 or 3 to that list and the returns jump to 28.3%.
you require your stocks to have an ESP of greater than 1%, we found it
increased performance to 29.6%. An ESP of greater than 2% bumps performance up
to 31.6%. While an ESP of greater than 3%, produces an average annual return of
there’s no need to hold out for stocks with significantly higher ESP’s than 3%.
While some stocks with higher ESP’s will do fantastic, there’s no aggregate
increase in performance by ratcheting it up beyond d the 3% threshold. And as
the above stats illustrate, simply having a positive ESP (i.e., the Most
Accurate Estimate is above the Consensus) still produces stellar results with a
high probability of success.
Using Zacks ESP in Your Own Trading Today
The next time your stock is about to report or a stock on your watch list is
getting closer to their earnings date, be sure to look at its Zacks ESP and see
what your stock’s probabilities are of producing a positive surprise.
If you prefer to let someone else do all the work and have the best
candidates sent to your inbox, learn more about Whisper
A Levy is one of the most highly sought after traders in the world and
member of three major stock exchanges. That is why you will frequently
appear on Fox Business, CNBC and Bloomberg providing his timely
other investors. He has written and published two tomes, “Your
Options Handbook” and “The
Bloomberg Visual Guide
You can discover more of his insights and recommendations through his
portfolio recommendation services:
Jared A Levy on twitter @jaredalevy
Jared A Levy on