When deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold a stock, investors often rely on analyst recommendations. Media reports about rating changes by these brokerage-firm-employed (or sell-side) analysts often influence a stock's price, but are they really important?
Let's take a look at what these Wall Street heavyweights have to say about
Merck ( MRK Quick Quote MRK - Free Report) before we discuss the reliability of brokerage recommendations and how to use them to your advantage.
Merck currently has an average brokerage recommendation (ABR) of 1.56, on a scale of 1 to 5 (Strong Buy to Strong Sell), calculated based on the actual recommendations (Buy, Hold, Sell, etc.) made by 18 brokerage firms. An ABR of 1.56 approximates between Strong Buy and Buy.
Of the 18 recommendations that derive the current ABR, 13 are Strong Buy, representing 72.2% of all recommendations.
Brokerage Recommendation Trends for MRK Check price target & stock forecast for Merck here>>> The ABR suggests buying Merck, but making an investment decision solely on the basis of this information might not be a good idea. According to several studies, brokerage recommendations have little to no success guiding investors to choose stocks with the most potential for price appreciation.
Do you wonder why? As a result of the vested interest of brokerage firms in a stock they cover, their analysts tend to rate it with a strong positive bias. According to our research, brokerage firms assign five "Strong Buy" recommendations for every "Strong Sell" recommendation.
In other words, their interests aren't always aligned with retail investors, rarely indicating where the price of a stock could actually be heading. Therefore, the best use of this information could be validating your own research or an indicator that has proven to be highly successful in predicting a stock's price movement.
With an impressive externally audited track record, our proprietary stock rating tool, the Zacks Rank, which classifies stocks into five groups, ranging from Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) to Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell), is a reliable indicator of a stock's near -term price performance. So, validating the Zacks Rank with ABR could go a long way in making a profitable investment decision.
ABR Should Not Be Confused With Zacks Rank
In spite of the fact that Zacks Rank and ABR both appear on a scale from 1 to 5, they are two completely different measures.
The ABR is calculated solely based on brokerage recommendations and is typically displayed with decimals (example: 1.28). In contrast, the Zacks Rank is a quantitative model allowing investors to harness the power of earnings estimate revisions. It is displayed in whole numbers -- 1 to 5.
It has been and continues to be the case that analysts employed by brokerage firms are overly optimistic with their recommendations. Because of their employers' vested interests, these analysts issue more favorable ratings than their research would support, misguiding investors far more often than helping them.
On the other hand, earnings estimate revisions are at the core of the Zacks Rank. And empirical research shows a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock price movements.
Furthermore, the different grades of the Zacks Rank are applied proportionately across all stocks for which brokerage analysts provide earnings estimates for the current year. In other words, at all times, this tool maintains a balance among the five ranks it assigns.
Another key difference between the ABR and Zacks Rank is freshness. The ABR is not necessarily up-to-date when you look at it. But, since brokerage analysts keep revising their earnings estimates to account for a company's changing business trends, and their actions get reflected in the Zacks Rank quickly enough, it is always timely in indicating future price movements.
Is MRK Worth Investing In?
Looking at the earnings estimate revisions for Merck, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has remained unchanged over the past month at $3.01.
Analysts' steady views regarding the company's earnings prospects, as indicated by an unchanged consensus estimate, could be a legitimate reason for the stock to perform in line with the broader market in the near term.
The size of the recent change in the consensus estimate, along with three other factors related to earnings estimates, has resulted in a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) for Merck. You can see
the complete list of today's Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks here >>>>
It may therefore be prudent to be a little cautious with the Buy-equivalent ABR for Merck.