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Zacks Earnings ESP: A Better Way to Find Earnings Surprises for Finance

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Two factors often determine stock prices in the long run: earnings and interest rates. Investors can't control the latter, but they can focus on a company's earnings results every quarter.

The earnings figure itself is key, of course, but a beat or miss on the bottom line can sometimes be just as, if not more, important. Therefore, investors should consider paying close attention to these earnings surprises, as a big beat can help a stock climb and vice versa.

The ability to identify stocks that are likely to top quarterly earnings expectations can be profitable, but it's no simple task. Here at Zacks, our Earnings ESP filter helps make things easier.

The Zacks Earnings ESP, Explained

The Zacks Earnings ESP is more formally known as the Expected Surprise Prediction, and it aims to grab the inside track on the latest analyst estimate revisions ahead of a company's report. The idea is relatively intuitive as a newer projection might be based on more complete information.

Now that we understand the basic idea, let's look at how the Expected Surprise Prediction works. The ESP is calculated by comparing the Most Accurate Estimate to the Zacks Consensus Estimate, with the percentage difference between the two giving us the Zacks ESP figure.

When we join a positive earnings ESP with a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) or stronger, stocks posted a positive bottom-line surprise 70% of the time. Plus, this system saw investors produce roughly 28% annual returns on average, according to our 10 year backtest.

Most stocks, about 60%, fall into the #3 (Hold) category, and they are expected to perform in-line with the broader market. Stocks with a #2 (Buy) and #1 (Strong Buy) rating, or the top 15% and top 5% of stocks, respectively, should outperform the market, with Strong Buy stocks outperforming more than any other rank.

Should You Consider Capital One?

The last thing we will do today, now that we have a grasp on the ESP and how powerful of a tool it can be, is to quickly look at a qualifying stock. Capital One (COF - Free Report) holds a #2 (Buy) at the moment and its Most Accurate Estimate comes in at $5.53 a share 20 days away from its upcoming earnings release on October 26, 2021.

By taking the percentage difference between the $5.53 Most Accurate Estimate and the $4.99 Zacks Consensus Estimate, Capital One has an Earnings ESP of 10.62%. Investors should also know that COF is just one of a large group of stocks with positive ESPs. All of these qualifying stocks can be filtered by ESP, Zacks Rank, % Surprise (Last Qtr.), and Reporting date.

Don't forget to head to the Earnings ESP Home Page. There, you'll find lots more earnings-related investing strategies to help build a winning portfolio.

Find Stocks to Buy or Sell Before They're Reported

Use the Zacks Earnings ESP Filter to turn up stocks with the highest probability of positively, or negatively, surprising to buy or sell before they're reported for profitable earnings season trading. Check it out here >>


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