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Earnings Growth & Price Strength Make HCA Healthcare (HCA) a Stock to Watch

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Here at Zacks, we offer our members many different opportunities to take full advantage of the stock market, as well as how to invest in ways that lead to long-term success.

The Zacks Premium service, which provides daily updates of the Zacks Rank and Zacks Industry Rank; full access to the Zacks #1 Rank List; Equity Research reports; and Premium stock screens like the Earnings ESP filter, makes these more manageable goals. All of the features can help you identify what stocks to buy, what to sell, and what are today's hottest industries.

The service also includes the Focus List, which is a long-term portfolio of top stocks that boast a winning, market-beating combination of growth and momentum qualities.

Breaking Down the Zacks Focus List

If you could get access to a curated list of stocks to kickstart your investment portfolio, wouldn't you jump at the chance to take a peek?

That's what the Zacks Focus List offers. It's a portfolio of 50 stocks that serve as a starting point for long-term investors to build their individual portfolios. The stocks included in the list are set to outperform the market over the next 12 months.

What makes the Focus List even more helpful is that each selection is accompanied by a full Zacks Analyst Report, which explains the reasoning behind every stock's selection and why we believe it's a good pick for the long-term.

The portfolio's past performance only solidifies why investors should consider it as a starting point. For 2020, the Focus List gained 13.85% on an annualized basis compared to the S&P 500's return of 9.38%. Cumulatively, the portfolio has returned 2,519.23% while the S&P returned 854.95%. Returns are for the period of February 1, 1996 to March 31, 2021.

Focus List Methodology

When stocks are picked for the Focus List, it reflects our enduring reliance on the power of earnings estimate revisions.

Earnings estimates, or expectations of growth and profitability, come from brokerage analysts who track publicly traded companies; these analysts work together with company management to analyze every aspect that may affect future earnings, like interest rates, the economy, and sector and industry optimism.

What a company will earn down the road also needs to be taken into consideration, and this is why earnings estimate revisions are so important.

Stocks that receive upward earnings estimate revisions are more likely to receive even more upward changes in the future. For example, if an analyst raised their estimates last month, they're more likely to do it again this month, and other analysts are likely to do the same.

Harnessing the power of earnings estimate revisions is where the Zacks Rank comes in. The Zacks Rank, which is a unique, proprietary stock-rating model, employs earnings estimate revisions to make it easier to build a winning portfolio.

The Zacks Rank consists of four main pillars: Agreement, Magnitude, Upside, and Surprise. Each one is given a raw score, which is recalculated every night and compiled into the Rank. Then, stocks are classified into five groups, ranging from "Strong Buy" to "Strong Sell," using this data.

The Focus List is comprised of stocks hand-picked from a long list of #1 (Strong Buy) or #2 (Buy) ranked companies, meaning that each new addition boasts a bullish earnings consensus among analysts.

Because stock prices react to revisions, buying stocks with rising earnings estimates can be very profitable. Focus List stocks offer investors a great opportunity to get into companies whose future earnings estimates will be raised, potentially leading to price momentum.

Focus List Spotlight: HCA Healthcare (HCA - Free Report)

Effective May 8, 2017, the company’s name was changed to HCA Healthcare, Inc.  from HCA Holdings, Inc. It is the largest non-governmental operator of acute care hospitals in the U.S. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, it operates hospitals and related health care entities.

HCA, a #2 (Buy) stock, was added to the Focus List on January 7, 2019 at $123.39 per share. Since then, shares have increased 101.36% to $248.46.

Eight analysts revised their earnings estimate upwards in the last 60 days for fiscal 2021. The Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $2.35 to $16.50. HCA boasts an average earnings surprise of 11.7%.

Earnings for HCA are forecasted to see growth of 51% for the current fiscal year as well.

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