Heartland Express ( HTLD Quick Quote HTLD - 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.
Shares of this trucking and logistics company have returned +13.2% over the past month versus the Zacks S&P 500 composite's +8.7% change. The Zacks Transportation - Truck industry, to which Heartland Express belongs, has gained 14.6% over this period. Now the key question is: Where could the stock be headed in the near term?
Although media reports or rumors about a significant change in a company's business prospects usually cause its stock to trend and lead to an immediate price change, there are always certain fundamental factors that ultimately drive the buy-and-hold decision.
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.
Heartland Express is expected to post earnings of $0.29 per share for the current quarter, representing a year-over-year change of -6.5%. Over the last 30 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate has changed +8.6%.
The consensus earnings estimate of $1.34 for the current fiscal year indicates a year-over-year change of +34%. This estimate has changed +39.3% over the last 30 days.
For the next fiscal year, the consensus earnings estimate of $0.97 indicates a change of -27.1% from what Heartland Express is expected to report a year ago. Over the past month, the estimate has changed +5.4%.
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, Heartland Express is rated Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
The chart below shows the evolution of the company's forward 12-month consensus EPS estimate:
12 Month EPS 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 Heartland Express, the consensus sales estimate for the current quarter of $198.95 million indicates a year-over-year change of +30.4%. For the current and next fiscal years, $729.44 million and $777.28 million estimates indicate +20.1% and +6.6% changes, respectively.
Last Reported Results and Surprise History
Heartland Express reported revenues of $187.82 million in the last reported quarter, representing a year-over-year change of +21.9%. EPS of $0.97 for the same period compares with $0.26 a year ago.
Compared to the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $164.61 million, the reported revenues represent a surprise of +14.1%. The EPS surprise was +273.08%.
Over the last four quarters, Heartland Express surpassed consensus EPS estimates three times. The company topped consensus revenue estimates just once over this period.
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.
The Zacks Value Style Score (part of the Zacks Style Scores system), which pays close attention to both traditional and unconventional valuation metrics to grade stocks from A to F (an An is better than a B; a B is better than a C; and so on), is pretty helpful in identifying whether a stock is overvalued, rightly valued, or temporarily undervalued.
Heartland Express is graded B 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 Heartland Express. However, its Zacks Rank #2 does suggest that it may outperform the broader market in the near term.