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A layman can end up losing bucks if he decides to pick a stock only on the basis of numbers flashing on a real-time stock screen. A critical analysis of the company’s financial background is essential for a better investment decision.

Often investors evaluate a company’s performance by simply looking at its sales and earnings, which sometimes do not reveal the real picture. To be more precise, they do not tell whether a company’s fundamentals are sound enough to meet its financial obligations. Here, the role of coverage ratios comes into play — the higher these are the more efficient an enterprise will be in meeting its financial obligations.

Why Interest Coverage Ratio?

Interest Coverage Ratio is used to determine how effectively a company can pay the interest charges on its debt.

Debt, which is crucial to financing operations for a majority of companies, comes at a cost called interest. Interest expense has a direct bearing on the profitability of a company. And the company’s creditworthiness depends on how effectively it meets its interest obligations. Therefore, Interest Coverage Ratio is one of the important criteria to factor in before making any investment decision.

Interest Coverage Ratio = Earnings before Interest & Taxes (EBIT) divided by Interest Expense.

The Interest Coverage Ratio suggests how many times the interest could be paid from earnings and also gauges the margin of safety a firm has for paying interest.

An interest coverage ratio lower than one suggests that the company is unable to fulfill its interest obligations, and could default on repaying debt. A company that is capable of generating earnings well above its interest expense can withstand financial hardships. Definitely one should also track the company’s past performance to determine whether the interest coverage ratio has improved or worsened over a period of time.

The Winning Strategy

Apart from having an Interest Coverage ratio that is more than the industry average, adding a favorable Zacks Rank and a VGM Score of A or B to your search criteria should lead to better results.

Interest Coverage Ratio greater than X-Industry Median

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

5-Year Historical EPS Growth (%) greater than X-Industry Median: Stocks that have a strong EPS growth history.

Projected EPS Growth (%) greater than X-Industry Median: This is the projected EPS growth over the next three to five years. This shows that the stock has near-term earnings growth potential.

Average 20-Day Volume greater than 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.

VGM Score of less than or equal to B: Our research shows that stocks with a VGM Score of A or B when combined with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 offer the best upside potential. 

Here are five of the 16 stocks that qualified the screening:

Nutrisystem, Inc. (NTRI - Free Report) , which provides weight management products and services, has a VGM Score of B and an expected EPS growth rate of 18.3% for 3–5 years. The stock currently flaunts a Zacks Rank #1. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

GP Strategies Corporation (GPX - Free Report) , which provides customized training solutions focused on performance improvement initiatives, has a VGM Score of B and a Zacks Rank #2. Its expected EPS growth rate for 3–5 years is pegged at 15%.

EMCOR Group, Inc. (EME - Free Report) , which provides electrical and mechanical construction and facilities services, has a VGM Score of A and an expected EPS growth rate 15% for 3–5 years. The stock currently carries a Zacks Rank #2.

Lithia Motors, Inc. (LAD - Free Report) which operates automotive franchises, and retails new and used vehicles, has a VGM Score of B and an expected EPS growth rate of 19% for 3–5 years. The stock currently carries a Zacks Rank #2.

Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. (HII - Free Report) , which is engaged in designing, building, overhauling, and repairing of ships, has a VGM Score of A and an expected EPS growth rate 15% for 3–5 years. The stock currently carries a Zacks Rank #2.

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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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