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The Q1 earnings season will officially kick off today as the aluminum giant Alcoa (AA - Free Report) is slated to report after the closing bell. Akin to the recent quarters, the earnings picture looks weak with projected growth deep in the negative territory for the fourth consecutive quarter.
 
This is especially true as Q1 earnings estimates have declined 11.1% from a decline of 1.1% three months ago, as per the Zacks Earnings Trend, indicating the highest negative revisions in recent quarters. This is worse than earnings decline of 6.4% reported in Q4. Revenue is also expected to decline 2.3% but this is still better than the Q4 revenue decline of 6.6%.
 
However, some hopes of earnings surprises have been building up in the market lately given the most conservative estimates. The recent moderation in dollar, stabilization in oil price, rebound in commodity prices, and fresh signs of stepped-up manufacturing activities will act as tailwinds for the companies (read: ETFs to Watch on U.S. Manufacturing Revival).  

As a result, investors could place their bet on the sectors that are expected to post positive earnings growth. Auto is the only sector with expected double-digit earnings growth of 20.8% while construction and business services are likely to post earnings growth of 6.4% and 1.7%, respectively. Additionally, consumer discretionary and medical/healthcare have modest earnings growth expectations of 0.8% and 0.6%, respectively, for the first quarter.

Given this, we have highlighted one ETF and one stock from each of these sectors that could make great plays. Each of these ETFs and stocks have a favorable Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), #2 (Buy) or #3 (Hold). For the stocks, we have added the extra flavor of a positive Earnings ESP, as stocks with this combination have 70% chances of beating estimates when their earnings are released in the coming weeks.

Auto

First Trust NASDAQ Global Auto ETF (CARZ - Free Report) : This fund provides global exposure to 37 auto stocks by tracking the NASDAQ OMX Global Auto Index. It is a large-cap centric fund and highly concentrated on the top five holdings with over 7% share each, suggesting that company-specific risk is high and that the top five firms dominate the returns. Other firms hold less than 5% of assets.

In term of country exposure, Japan takes the top spot at 35.3% while the U.S. and Germany round off the next two spots with 23.8% and 18.6% share, respectively. CARZ is under-appreciated and ignored by investors as indicated by its AUM of only $39.6 million and average daily trading volume of about 11,000 shares. The product charges 70 bps in fees per year and has a Zacks ETF Rank of 3 with a High risk outlook (read: 4 Sector ETFs at a Bargain).
 
Delphi Automotive : This Zacks Rank #2 company is a high-technology vehicle components manufacturer that provides electrical and electronic, powertrain, and safety technology solutions to the automotive and commercial vehicle markets worldwide. It saw positive earnings estimate revisions of a penny for the first quarter over the past 60 days, with an expected growth rate of 10.74%. It has an Earnings ESP of +2.24% and delivered positive earnings surprises in the last four quarters, with an average beat of 0.97%. The stock has a superb Value and Momentum Style Score of ‘A’ each and a solid Growth Style Score of ‘B’. Delphi Automotive is scheduled to report its results on May 5.

Construction

iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ITB - Free Report) : This fund provides a pure play to the home construction sector by tracking the Dow Jones U.S. Select Home Construction Index. It holds a basket of 41 stocks with double-digit allocation going to D.R. Horton (DHI - Free Report) and Lennar (LEN - Free Report) . Other firms hold no more than 8.19% of assets. Homebuilding takes the top spot at 64.3%, followed by 15.5% in building products and 8.4% in home improvement retail. The product has amassed $1.5 billion in its asset base and trades in heavy volume of more than 3.7 million shares a day on average. The ETF charges 44 bps in annual fees and has a Zacks ETF Rank of 2 with a High risk outlook (read: Are Housing ETFs Ready to Ride on Spring Selling Season?).
 
CEMEX, S.A.B. de C.V. (CX - Free Report) : This Zacks Rank #1 company is one of the largest cement companies in the world that provides high-quality products and reliable services to customers and communities. It has an Earnings ESP of +66.67% and delivered positive earnings surprises in the three of the last four quarters, with an average beat of 133.01%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for first-quarter 2016 is a loss of 9 cents, up three cents over the past three months and representing year-over-year earnings growth of 14.91%. The stock has a solid Momentum Score of A while an unfavorable Value and Growth Style Score of C and D, respectively. The company is slated to release its earnings results before the opening bell on April 21.

Consumer Discretionary

Vanguard Consumer Discretionary ETF (VCR - Free Report) : This fund follows the MSCI U.S. Investable Market Consumer Discretionary 25/50 Index and holds 380 stocks in its basket with the top firm taking the maximum share at 7.9%. Other firms hold no more than 5.6% of assets. Internet retail, restaurants, cable & satellite, and movies and entertainment are the top four sectors accounting for a double-digit exposure each. VCR is the low choice in the space, charging investors just 10 bps in annual fees while volume is also solid at nearly 168,000 shares a day. The product has managed about $1.8 billion in its asset base and has a Zacks ETF Rank of 1 with a Medium risk outlook (read: Forget Retail, Focus on Broad Consumer ETFs). 
 
Cinemark Holdings Inc. (CNK - Free Report) : This Zacks Rank #3 company is a leader in the motion picture exhibition industry. It has an Earnings ESP of +2.27% and delivered positive earnings surprises in the two of the last four quarters, with an average beat of 0.15%. Cinemark Holdings saw positive earnings estimate revisions of three cents over the past three months for the first quarter, representing an earnings growth of 19.59%. The stock has a top Growth Style Score of A and a solid Value and Momentum Style Score of B each. The company is slated to release earnings results on May 5.

Medical/Health Care

Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV - Free Report) : Investors could find the largest and ultra-popular healthcare ETF an exciting pick amid positive earnings growth expectations. The fund follows the Health Care Select Sector Index, holding 60 stocks in its basket. It is largely concentrated on the top firm – Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) – at 11.4% while other firms hold less than 7.5% of assets. Pharma accounts for 38.2% share from a sector look, followed by biotech (22.8%), healthcare providers and services (18.7%), and equipment and supplies (15.4%). The fund manages about $12.4 billion in its asset base and trades in heavy volume of around 14 million shares. Expense ratio came in at 0.14% annually. It has a Zacks ETF Rank of 1 with a Medium risk outlook (read: New Tax Inversions Rules: Threats to Healthcare ETFs?).
 
Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD - Free Report) : This Zacks Rank #1 company is a research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and commercializes innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need. It saw solid earnings estimate revisions from $2.76 to $2.97 for the first quarter over the past three months, and has an expected growth rate of 2.88%. It has an Earnings ESP of +10.77% and delivered positive earnings surprises in the last four quarters, with an average beat of 7.79%. The stock has a solid Value and Momentum Style Score of ‘B’ and ‘A’, respectively. Gilead Sciences is scheduled to report its earnings results after the closing bell on April 28.

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