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Is CF Industries (CF) a Profitable Stock to Pick Right Now?

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Value investing is easily one of the most popular ways to find great stocks in any market environment. After all, who wouldn’t want to find stocks that are either flying under the radar and are compelling buys, or offer up tantalizing discounts when compared to fair value?

One way to find these companies is by looking at several key metrics and financial ratios, many of which are crucial in the value stock selection process. Let’s put, CF Industries Holdings., Inc. (CF - Free Report) stock into this equation and find out if it is a good choice for value-oriented investors right now, or if investors subscribing to this methodology should look elsewhere for top picks:

PE Ratio

A key metric that value investors always look at is the Price to Earnings Ratio, or PE for short. This shows us how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of earnings in a given stock, and is easily one of the most popular financial ratios in the world. The best use of the PE ratio is to compare the stock’s current PE ratio with: a) where this ratio has been in the past; b) how it compares to the average for the industry/sector; and c) how it compares to the market as a whole.

On this front, CF Industries has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 19.55, as you can see in the chart below:


 
This level actually compares pretty favorably with the market at large, as the PE for the S&P 500 compares in at about 23.60. If we focus on the stock’s long-term PE trend, the current level CF Industries puts current PE ratio above its midpoint (which is 16.94) over the past five years.


 
Also, the stock’s PE compares favorably with the Zacks Basic Materials sector’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 27.87. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.


 
We should also point out that CF Industries has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of 22.26, so it is fair to expect an increase in the share price in the near term.

P/S Ratio

Another key metric to note is the Price/Sales ratio. This approach compares a given stock’s price to its total sales, where a lower reading is generally considered better. Some people like this metric more than other value-focused ones because it looks at sales, something that is far harder to manipulate with accounting tricks than earnings.

Right now, the stock has a P/S ratio of about 1.71. This is substantially lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 4.16 right now. Also, as we can see in the chart below, this is slightly below the highs for this stock in particular over the past few years.


 
If anything, this suggests some level of undervalued trading—at least compared to historical norms. 

Broad Value Outlook

In aggregate, CF Industries currently has a Value Style Score of B, putting it into the top 40% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes CF a solid choice for value investors and some of its other metrics make it clear too.

For example, its P/CF ratio comes in at 5.68, which is slightly better than the industry average of 5.86. Clearly, CF is a solid choice on the value front from multiple angles.

What About the Stock Overall?

Though CF Industries might be a good choice for value investors, there are plenty of other factors to consider before investing in this name. In particular, it is worth noting that the company has a Growth grade of C and a Momentum score of A. This gives CF a VGM score—or its overarching fundamental grade—of A. (You can read more about the Zacks Style ScoresCF - Free Report) %20a%20great%20pick%20from%20the%20value%20investor???s%20perspective%20right%20now?%20Read%20on%20to%20know%20more.%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20"> here >>).

Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been encouraging. The current quarter has seen two estimates go higher in the past sixty days and one lower, while current year estimate has seen four upward and one downward revision in the same time period.

This has had a noticeable impact on the consensus estimate. The current quarter consensus estimate has risen 50% in the past two months, while the current year estimate has risen 9.3% in the same time period. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:

 

 

Despite having a bullish trend, CF sports a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). This indicates that analysts have some apprehensions about the stock in the immediate future. Thus, we are looking for in-line performance from the company in the near term.

Bottom Line

CF Industries is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. However with a sluggish industry rank (Bottom 24% out of more than 250 industries) and a Zacks Rank #3, it is hard to get excited about the stock overall. In fact, over the past one year, the sector has clearly underperformed the broader market, as you can see below:


 
So, value investors might want to wait for broader factors to turn around in this name first, but once that happens, this stock could be a compelling pick.

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