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Payroll and human resource solutions provider, Paychex Inc. (PAYX - Snapshot Report), is slated to release first-quarter 2014 results on Sep 30, 2013, after the closing bell. It is noteworthy that in the last quarter, Paychex recorded a positive earnings surprise of 2.7%. The company has a trailing four-quarter average positive surprise of 2.57%. Let us see how things are shaping up for this quarter.

Growth Factors this Past Quarter

Paychex’s fourth quarter witnessed growth across its services segment, primarily aided by Human Resource Services revenues. Growth in Human Resource Services revenues was driven by client growth and price increases. Also, increases in checks per payroll and revenue per check positively impacted Payroll service revenues. Moreover, the client retention rate was satisfactory.

Moreover, the company’s modest revenue growth supported by better cost management and capacity utilization boosted operating performance. However, Paychex’s earnings remained flat on a year-over-year basis as the company incurred higher tax provision for a state income tax settlement.

Earnings Whispers?

We are encouraged by Paychex’s product development and focus on building sales force to support revenue growth. Moreover, Paychex’s focus on small and mid sized business looking for HR solutions could provide the company with opportunities. However, the macroeconomic sluggishness coupled with growing competition from Intuit and Automatic Data Processing could be an overhang.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the first quarter stands at 43 cents with no estimate revisions witnessed in the last 60 days. The stock carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

We caution against stocks with Zacks Ranks #4 and 5 (Sell-rated stocks) going into the earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions momentum.

Other Stocks to Consider

Our model states that a stock needs to have both a positive Zacks Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank #1, 2 or 3 to beat earnings estimates. You could, however, consider the following stocks that satisfy both criteria:

  • Plexus Corp. (PLXS - Analyst Report), with Earnings ESP of +1.49% and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)
  • DragonWave Inc. (DRWI - Snapshot Report), with Earnings ESP of +4.17% and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)
  • LinkedIn Corp (LNKD - Analyst Report), with Earnings ESP of +100% and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)

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