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Here's How Investors Can Find Strong Finance Stocks with the Zacks ESP Screener

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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.

Now that we know how important earnings and earnings surprises are, it's time to show investors how to take advantage of these events to boost their returns by utilizing the Zacks Earnings ESP filter.

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.

In fact, when we combined a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) or better and a positive Earnings ESP, stocks produced a positive surprise 70% of the time. Perhaps most importantly, using these parameters has helped produce 28.3% annual returns on average, according to our 10 year backtest.

Stocks with a ranking of #3 (Hold), or 60% of all stocks covered by the Zacks Rank, are expected to perform in-line with the broader market. Stocks with rankings of #2 (Buy) and #1 (Strong Buy), or the top 15% and top 5% of stocks, respectively, should outperform the market; Strong Buy stocks should outperform more than any other rank.

Should You Consider Manulife Financial?

Now that we understand what the ESP is and how beneficial it can be, let's dive into a stock that currently fits the bill. Manulife Financial (MFC - Free Report) earns a #3 (Hold) right now and its Most Accurate Estimate sits at $0.67 a share, just six days from its upcoming earnings release on November 3, 2021.

Manulife Financial's Earnings ESP sits at 1.53%, which, as explained above, is calculated by taking the percentage difference between the $0.67 Most Accurate Estimate and the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.66. MFC is also part of a large group of stocks that boast a positive ESP. All of these qualifying stocks can be filtered by ESP, Zacks Rank, % Surprise (Last Qtr.), and Reporting date.

Now that you know how to use the Zacks Earnings ESP to your advantage, make sure to check out the Earnings ESP Home Page for even more earnings related strategies to create 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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