Value investing is easily one of the most popular ways to find great stocks in any market environment. After all, who wouldn’t want to find stocks that are either flying under the radar and are compelling buys, or offer up tantalizing discounts when compared to fair value?
One way to find these companies is by looking at several key metrics and financial ratios, many of which are crucial in the value stock selection process. Let’s put Aetna Inc. (AET - Free Report) stock into this equation and find out if it is a good choice for value-oriented investors right now, or if investors subscribing to this methodology should look elsewhere for top picks:
A key metric that value investors always look at is the Price to Earnings Ratio, or PE for short. This shows us how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of earnings in a given stock, and is easily one of the most popular financial ratios in the world. The best use of the PE ratio is to compare the stock’s current PE ratio with: a) where this ratio has been in the past; b) how it compares to the average for the industry/sector; and c) how it compares to the market as a whole.
On this front, Aetna Inc. has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 15.6, as you can see in the chart below:
This level actually compares pretty favorably with the market at large, as the PE for the S&P 500 compares in at about 20.4. If we focus on the stock’s long-term PE trend, the current level puts Aetna Inc.’s current PE ratio slightly above its midpoint (which is 13.8) over the past five years.
Further, the stock’s PE also compares favorably with the industry’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 19.2. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.
We should also point out that Aetna Inc. has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of 16.4, so it is fair to expect an increase in the company’s share price in the near future.
Another key metric to note is the Price/Sales ratio. This approach compares a given stock’s price to its total sales, where a lower reading is generally considered better. Some people like this metric more than other value-focused ones because it looks at sales, something that is far harder to manipulate with accounting tricks than earnings.
Right now, Aetna Inc. has a P/S ratio of about 0.8. This is substantially lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.2 right now. Also, as we can see in the chart below, this is marginally below the highs for this stock in particular over the past few years.
If anything, Aetna Inc. is towards the higher end of its range in the time period from a P/S metric, which suggests that the company’s stock price has already appreciated to some degree, relative to its sales.
Broad Value Outlook
In aggregate, Aetna Inc. currently has a Value Style Score of B, putting it into the top 40% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes AET a solid choice for value investors.
What About the Stock Overall?
Though Aetna Inc. might be a good choice for value investors, there are plenty of other factors to consider before investing in this name. In particular, it is worth noting that the company has a Growth grade of F and a Momentum score of C. This gives AET a VGM score—or its overarching fundamental grade—of D. (You can read more about the Zacks Style Scores here >>)
Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been mixed at best. The current quarter has seen eight estimates go lower in the past sixty days, compared to none higher, while the full year estimate has seen ten upward and no downward revisions in the same time period.
This has had a noticeable impact on the consensus estimate, as the current quarter consensus estimate has fallen about 6.7% in the past two months, while the full year estimate has risen about 6.1%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:
Despite this mixed trend, the stock has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) on the back of its strong value metrics and this is why we are expecting above-average performance from the company in the near-term.
Aetna Inc. is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. Boasting a formidable industry rank (top 5% out of more than 250 industries) and a strong Zacks Rank, the company deserves attention right now. In fact, over the past one year, the sector has clearly outperformed the broader market, as you can see below:
So, value investors might want to wait for estimates and analyst sentiment to turn around in this name first, but once that happens, this stock could be a compelling pick.
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