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Is Most-Watched Stock Alcoa (AA) Worth Betting on Now?

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Alcoa (AA - Free Report) has recently been on Zacks.com's list of the most searched stocks. Therefore, you might want to consider some of the key factors that could influence the stock's performance in the near future.

Over the past month, shares of this bauxite, alumina and aluminum products company have returned -7.2%, compared to the Zacks S&P 500 composite's +5.6% change. During this period, the Zacks Metal Products - Distribution industry, which Alcoa falls in, has gained 3.4%. The key question now is: What could be the stock's future direction?

While media releases or rumors about a substantial change in a company's business prospects usually make its stock 'trending' and lead to an immediate price change, there are always some fundamental facts that eventually dominate the buy-and-hold decision-making.

Revisions to Earnings Estimates

Here at Zacks, we prioritize appraising the change in the projection of a company's future earnings over anything else. That's because we believe the present value of its future stream of earnings is what determines the fair value for its stock.

We essentially look at how sell-side analysts covering the stock are revising their earnings estimates to reflect the impact of the latest business trends. And if earnings estimates go up for a company, the fair value for its stock goes up. A higher fair value than the current market price drives investors' interest in buying the stock, leading to its price moving higher. This is why empirical research shows a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock price movements.

For the current quarter, Alcoa is expected to post earnings of $0.64 per share, indicating a change of -68.8% from the year-ago quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimate has changed -80.1% over the last 30 days.

For the current fiscal year, the consensus earnings estimate of $7.27 points to a change of +6.4% from the prior year. Over the last 30 days, this estimate has changed -37.4%.

For the next fiscal year, the consensus earnings estimate of $6.98 indicates a change of -4% from what Alcoa is expected to report a year ago. Over the past month, the estimate has changed -41%.

Having a strong externally audited track record, our proprietary stock rating tool, the Zacks Rank, offers a more conclusive picture of a stock's price direction in the near term, since it effectively harnesses the power of earnings estimate revisions. Due to the size of the recent change in the consensus estimate, along with three other factors related to earnings estimates, Alcoa is rated Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell).

The chart below shows the evolution of the company's forward 12-month consensus EPS estimate:

12 Month EPS

12-month consensus EPS estimate for AA _12MonthEPSChartUrl

Projected Revenue Growth

Even though a company's earnings growth is arguably the best indicator of its financial health, nothing much happens if it cannot raise its revenues. It's almost impossible for a company to grow its earnings without growing its revenue for long periods. Therefore, knowing a company's potential revenue growth is crucial.

For Alcoa, the consensus sales estimate for the current quarter of $3.17 billion indicates a year-over-year change of +1.8%. For the current and next fiscal years, $13.27 billion and $13.11 billion estimates indicate +9.2% and -1.2% changes, respectively.

Last Reported Results and Surprise History

Alcoa reported revenues of $3.64 billion in the last reported quarter, representing a year-over-year change of +28.6%. EPS of $2.67 for the same period compares with $1.49 a year ago.

Compared to the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.49 billion, the reported revenues represent a surprise of +4.33%. The EPS surprise was +2.69%.

The company beat consensus EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters. The company topped consensus revenue estimates three times over this period.

Valuation

No investment decision can be efficient without considering a stock's valuation. Whether a stock's current price rightly reflects the intrinsic value of the underlying business and the company's growth prospects is an essential determinant of its future price performance.

Comparing the current value of a company's valuation multiples, such as its price-to-earnings (P/E), price-to-sales (P/S), and price-to-cash flow (P/CF), to its own historical values helps ascertain whether its stock is fairly valued, overvalued, or undervalued, whereas comparing the company relative to its peers on these parameters gives a good sense of how reasonable its stock price is.

As part of the Zacks Style Scores system, the Zacks Value Style Score (which evaluates both traditional and unconventional valuation metrics) organizes stocks into five groups ranging from A to F (A is better than B; B is better than C; and so on), making it helpful in identifying whether a stock is overvalued, rightly valued, or temporarily undervalued.

Alcoa is graded A on this front, indicating that it is trading at a discount to its peers. Click here to see the values of some of the valuation metrics that have driven this grade.

Conclusion

The facts discussed here and much other information on Zacks.com might help determine whether or not it's worthwhile paying attention to the market buzz about Alcoa. However, its Zacks Rank #5 does suggest that it may underperform the broader market in the near term.


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