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To arrive at a decision to buy or sell a stock at an attractive value, investors have a number of valuation metrics at their disposal. Though price-to-earnings and price-to-sales are preferred by value investors while choosing value stocks, the price-to-book ratio (P/B ratio) is also a convenient valuation metric for identifying low-priced stocks, which have high-growth prospects.

The P/B ratio is used to calculate how much an investor needs to pay for each dollar of book value of a stock. It is calculated by dividing the current closing price of the stock by the latest quarter's book value per share.

P/B ratio = market capitalization/book value of equity.

Understanding Book Value

There are several ways by which book value can be defined. It is the total value that would be left over, according to the company’s balance sheet, if it goes bankrupt immediately. In other words, this is what shareholders would theoretically receive if a company liquidates all its assets after paying off all its liabilities.

It is calculated by subtracting total liabilities from the total assets of a company. In most cases, this would equate to common stockholders’ equity on the balance sheet. However, depending on the company’s balance sheet, intangible assets should also be subtracted from the total assets to determine the book value.

Explaining the P/B Ratio

By comparing the book value of equity to its market price, we get an idea of whether a company is under- or overpriced. However, like P/E or P/S ratio, it is always better to compare P/B ratios within industries. 

A P/B ratio less than one means that the stock is trading at less than its book value, or the stock is undervalued and therefore a good buy. Conversely, a stock with a ratio greater than one can be interpreted as being overvalued or relatively expensive.

But there is a caveat. A P/B ratio less than one can also mean that the company is earning weak or even negative returns on its assets, or that the assets are overstated, in which case the stock should be shunned because it may be destroying shareholder value. Conversely, the stock’s share price may be significantly high – thereby pushing the P/B ratio to more than one – in the likely case that it has become a takeover target, a good enough reason to own the stock.

Moreover, the P/B ratio isn't without limitations. It is useful for businesses – like finance, investments, insurance and banking or manufacturing companies – with many liquid/tangible assets on the books. However, it can be misleading for firms with significant R&D expenditures, high-debt companies, service companies or those with negative earnings.

In any case, the ratio is not particularly relevant as a standalone number. One should also analyze other ratios like P/E, P/S, and debt to equity before arriving at a reasonable investment decision.

Screening Parameters

Price to Book (common Equity) less than X-Industry Median: A lower P/B compared with the industry average implies that there is enough room for the stock to gain.

Price to Sales less than X-Industry Median: The P/S ratio determines how much the market values every dollar of the company’s sales/revenues — a lower ratio than the industry makes the stock attractive.

Price to Earnings using F(1) estimate less than X-Industry Median: The P/E ratio (F1) values a company based on its current share price relative to its estimated earnings per share – a lower ratio than the industry is considered better.

PEG less than 1: PEG ratio links the P/E ratio to the future growth rate of the company. PEG ratio portrays a more complete picture than the P/E ratio. A value of less than 1 indicates that the stock is undervalued and investors need to pay less for a stock that has a bright earnings growth prospect.

Current Price greater than or equal to $5: They must all be trading at a minimum of $5 or higher.

Average 20-Day Volume greater than or equal to 100,000: A substantial trading volume ensures that the stock is easily tradable.

Zacks Rank less than or equal to #2: Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) stocks are known to outperform irrespective of the market environment.

Value Style Score equal to A or B: Our research shows that stocks with a Value Style Score of A or B when combined a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 offer the best opportunities in the value investing space.

Here are four stocks that qualified the screening:

Magellan Health, Inc. (MGLN - Free Report) , a managed care organization, has a projected 3–5 year EPS growth rate of 18%. Currently, the stock has a Value Score of A and a Zacks Rank #2. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Synaptics Incorporated (SYNA - Free Report) , a human interface solutions designer, has a projected 3–5 year EPS growth rate of 15%. Currently, the stock has a Value Score of A and a Zacks Rank #2.

Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft (VLKAY - Free Report) , a European automobile manufacturer, has a Zacks Rank #2. It has a 3–5 year EPS growth rate of 8.9% and a Value Score of A.

Lam Research Corporation (LRCX - Free Report) is a leading global provider of innovative wafer fabrication equipment and services to the semiconductor industry. The company has a projected 3–5 year EPS growth rate of 17.2%. Currently, Citizens Financial has a Zacks Rank #1 and a Value Score of B.

You can sign up now for your 2-week free trial to the Research Wizard and start using this screen in your own trading. Further, you can also create your own strategies and test them first before taking the investment plunge.

The Research Wizard is a great place to begin. It's easy to use. Everything is in plain language. And it's very intuitive. Start your trial to the Research Wizard today. And the next time you read an economic report, open up the Research Wizard, plug your finds in, and see what gems come out.

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Disclosure: Officers, directors and/or employees of Zacks Investment Research may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. An affiliated investment advisory firm may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material.

Disclosure: Performance information for Zacks’ portfolios and strategies are available at: https://www.zacks.com/performance.

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