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New to Investing? This 1 Business Services Stock Could Be the Perfect Starting Point

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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 makes this easier. It features 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. All of these can help you quickly identify what stocks to buy, what to sell, and what are today's hottest industries.

Also included in Zacks Premium is the Focus List. This is a long-term portfolio of top stocks that have all the traits to beat the market.

Breaking Down the Zacks Focus List

Building an investment portfolio from scratch can be difficult, so if you could, wouldn't you take a peek at a curated list of top stocks?

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 are expectations of growth and profitability, and are determined by brokerage analysts. Together with company management, these analysts examine every aspect that may affect future earnings, like interest rates, the economy, and sector and industry optimism.

Investors also need to look at what a company will earn down the road. This is why earnings estimate revisions are so important.

When a stock receives upward earnings estimate revisions, it will likely get even more positive changes in the future. For instance, if an analyst raised their earnings outlook last month, they'll probably do so again this month, and other analysts will follow.

Utilizing the power of earnings estimate revisions is when the Zacks Rank joins the party. A unique, proprietary stock-rating model, the Zacks Rank uses changes to quarterly earnings expectations to help investors create 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.

It can be very profitable to buy stocks with rising earnings estimates, as stock prices respond to revisions. By adding Focus List stocks, there's a great chance you'll be getting into companies whose future earnings estimates will be raised, which can lead to price momentum.

Focus List Spotlight: ICF International (ICFI - Free Report)

Headquartered in Fairfax, VA, ICF International, Inc. is a provider of professional services and technology-based solutions to government and commercial clients. The company’s primary services include advisory, analytics, digital, engagement and program implementation services. These services are offered in four markets namely, energy, environment and infrastructure; health, education, and social programs; safety and security, and consumer and financial.

Since being added to the Focus List on April 23, 2018 at $66.60 per share, shares of ICFI have increased 40.63% to $93.66. The stock is currently a #2 (Buy) on the Zacks Rank.

Two analysts revised their earnings estimate higher in the last 60 days for fiscal 2021, while the Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $0.04 to $4.61. ICFI also boasts an average earnings surprise of 25.8%.

Moreover, analysts are expecting ICFI's earnings to grow 10.6% for the current fiscal year.

Reveal Winning Stocks

Unlock all of our powerful research, tools and analysis, including the Zacks #1 Rank List, Equity Research Reports, Zacks Earnings ESP Filter, Premium Screener and more, as part of Zacks Premium. You'll quickly identify which stocks to buy, hold and sell, and target today's hottest industries, to help improve the performance of your portfolio. Gain full access now >>


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