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 HCA Healthcare, Inc. (HCA - 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, HCA Healthcare has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 10.9, 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 20.3. If we focus on the stock’s long-term PE trend, the current level puts HCA Healthcare’s current PE ratio slightly below its midpoint (which is 12.9) over the past five years.
Further, the stock’s PE also compares favorably with its industry’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 13.1. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.
We should also point out that HCA Healthcare has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of just 17.3, 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, HCA Healthcare has a P/S ratio of about 0.7. This is substantially lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.2 right now.
If anything, this suggests some level of undervalued trading—at least compared to historical norms.
Broad Value Outlook
In aggregate, HCA Healthcare currently has a Zacks Value Style Score of A, putting it into the top 20% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes HCA a solid choice for value investors, and some of its other key metrics make this pretty clear too.
For example, the PEG ratio for HCA Healthcare is just 1, a level that is slightly lower than the industry average of 1.3. The PEG ratio is a modified PE ratio that takes into account the stock’s earnings growth rate. Clearly, HCA Healthcare is a solid choice on the value front from multiple angles.
What About the Stock Overall?
Though HCA Healthcare 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 B and a Momentum score of B. This gives HCA a Zacks VGM score—or its overarching fundamental grade—of A. (You can read more about the Zacks Style Scores here >>)
Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been disappointing. The current quarter has seen ten downward estimates revisions in the past sixty days and none upward, while the full year estimate has seen one upward revision and eleven downward revisions in the same time period.
This has had a noticeable impact on the consensus estimate, as the current quarter consensus estimate has dipped 1.8% in the past two months, while the full year estimate has declined 0.8%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:
HCA Holdings, Inc. Price and Consensus
This somewhat bearish trend is why the stock has just a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) and why we are looking for in-line performance from the company in the near term.
HCA Healthcare is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. However, with a sluggish industry rank (bottom 7% out of more than 250 industries) and a Zacks Rank #3, it is hard to get too excited about this company overall. In fact, over the past six months, its industry has clearly underperformed the broader market, as you can see below:
So, value investors might want to wait for estimates, analyst sentiment and broader factors to turn favorable in this name first, but once that happen, this stock could be a compelling pick.
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