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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Amazon, Home Depot, Ross Stores, Dollar General and Lowe's

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – November 13, 2017 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) , The Home Depot Inc. (HD - Free Report) , Ross Stores Inc. (ROST - Free Report) , Dollar General Corporation (DG - Free Report) and Lowe's Companies, Inc. (LOW - Free Report) .

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Friday’s Analyst Blog:

These Retailers Will Steal the Show with Q3 Earnings Beats

The earnings results are usually the corner stone of gauging a company’s performance. The third-quarter 2017 earnings reporting cycle is drawing closer to an end where we already have a reasonably good picture of the winners and losers in this quarter. This gives investors a hands-on data to re-evaluate their portfolios and take on board stocks that promise handsome returns.

Among all the sectors, our focus here will be upon the Retail-Wholesale sector. A close look at the sector reveals that retailers continue to struggle in an Amazon dominated market. With market share growing for Amazon Prime, Marketplace and Prime Air, as well as the launch of drone delivery, Amazon is poised for exceptional growth, which undoubtedly presents fierce competition for traditional retailers.

The rise of e-tailers has left the retail sector struggling with lower footfall at stores as all the brands are looking to directly sell to consumers through the expansion of digital stores. Further, these retailers are heavily investing in e-commerce and omni-channel functionalities, which are likely to weigh on margins at least in the near term.

As the holiday season, which accounts for a sizeable chunk of yearly revenues and profits for retailers, is just around the corner, analysts remain optimistic about the sector’s performance on grounds of gradual wage growth, lower inflation, low unemployment rate, an uptick in the U.S. consumer sentiment and a lift in economic activity post hurricanes. Characterized by the aforementioned improvement in the consumer backdrop, alongside early-hour store openings, huge discounts, promotional strategies, price matching and free shipping on online purchases, the holiday season this November and December is likely to be a huge success.

The nation's largest retail trade group, National Retail Federation (“NRF”) rightly projects retail sales for November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) to improve 3.6-4% to $678.75-$682 billion, up from $655.8 billion (or 3.6% growth) last year and better than the five-year average sales growth of 3.5%. Additionally, the NRF projects online holiday sales to rise 7-10% to nearly $117 billion in November and December compared with a 9% improvement to $105 billion in 2015.

The NRF predicts sales for the period to benefit from a longer holiday season as Christmas is falling on Monday this year and 32 days after Thanksgiving. This will give retailers one extra day of sales from usual, as well as benefit last-minute shoppers in the weekend before Christmas.

While the holiday season is likely to impact the fourth-quarter of 2017, we bring our focus back to the third quarter, which is in its climax.

Q3 Earnings Scorecard

Looking at the earnings scorecard of the overall S&P 500 Index so far, about 436 S&P 500 members that together represent 87.2% of the Index’s total market capitalization have released third-quarter earnings results. Total earnings for these companies were up 6.8%, on 6.2% revenue growth. Further, about 73.4% delivered positive earnings surprises and about 67% beat revenue estimates.

Key takeaways from the results so far point to clear revenue momentum as top-line growth has been accelerating compared with other recent periods. Further, the quarter has witness an above-average proportion of positive surprises, reflecting the carry forward of momentum from the preceding quarter. Additionally, the estimates revision trend for the fourth quarter has been favorable, with earnings estimates holding up a lot better relative to other comparable periods.

Among the 16 Zacks sectors, results for the Finance sector have been below average this quarter. However, this earnings season has been favorable for the Energy, Industrial Products, Technology, Construction, Business Services, and Medical sectors.

Coming to expectations, total earnings for the quarter are expected to increase 6.2% year over year, with a 5.7% jump in revenues. Here, the strength in the Technology and Energy sectors are likely to balance the soft Finance sector results.

For the retail sector, in particular, earnings in the third quarter are expected to inch up 0.6%, with 6.2% revenue growth. Notably, the retail sector still has a sizable chunk of earnings to be reported. Only 47.4% of the S&P 500 members have reported results so far. Of these, 83.3% beat earnings estimates, while 66.7% topped revenue estimates. The sector has seen earnings for the quarter rise 2.9% thus far, with revenue growth of 10.9%.

The real picture of the trend so far is visible from our latest Earnings Trends report published on Nov 8.

That said, we bring to you seven retail stocks that may show promise based on their favorable Zacks Rank – Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), 2 (Buy) or 3 (Hold) – and a positive Earnings ESP. Our research shows that for stocks with this combination, the chance of a positive earnings surprise is as high as 70%. It makes sense to add these potential winners to your portfolio ahead of their releases. A rational investment can fetch higher returns on the heels of an earnings beat.

Our Picks

We have highlighted four stocks that not only meet the prescribed criteria but have also convincingly beaten earnings estimates in the trailing four quarters, hold excellent prospects and are therefore well positioned for future earnings growth.

The Home Depot Inc., the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer based on net sales with over 2,200 retail stores across the globe also holds promise. The company carries a Zacks Rank #2 and an Earnings ESP of +0.57%. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for third-quarter fiscal 2017 is pegged at $1.81 per share, reflecting a year-over-year growth of 13.2%. The estimate for the quarter has witnessed an uptrend in the last 30 days.  This Atlanta, GA-based company registered average positive earnings surprise of 3.8% in the trailing four quarters, and has a long-term earnings growth rate of 13.5%. The company is scheduled to report results on Nov 14.

Investors can also count on Ross Stores Inc., an off-price retailer of apparel and home accessories, primarily in the United States. The company carries an Earnings ESP of +0.27% and a Zacks Rank #2. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for third-quarter fiscal 2017 is pegged at 67 cents, which has been stable in the last 30 days. Further, it reflects growth of 7.8% from the prior-year quarter. This Pleasanton, CA-based company registered average positive earnings surprise of 6.3% in the trailing four quarters, and has a long-term earnings growth rate of 10%. The company is slated to report results on Nov 16.

Dollar General Corporation, one of the largest discount retailers in the United States. that trades in low priced merchandise typically $10 or less also seems good. The company has an Earnings ESP of +1.65% and a Zacks Rank #3. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for third-quarter fiscal 2017 is pegged at 93 cents per share, reflecting a year over year growth of 5%. This Goodlettsville, TN-based company registered an average positive earnings surprise of 1.8% in the preceding four quarters, and has a long-term earnings growth rate of 10.8%. The company is slated to report results on Dec 7.

We can also place our bets on Lowe's Companies, Inc., one of the leading home improvement retailers, which has its operations primarily in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The company carries a Zacks Rank #3, a long-term earnings growth rate of 13.6% and an Earnings ESP of +0.18%. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for third-quarter fiscal 2017 is pegged at $1.02 per share, which has been stable in the last 30 days and reflects a year-over-year growth of 15.5%. This Mooresville, NC-based company is scheduled to report results on Nov 21.

Bottom Line

We believe that the above stocks with strong fundamentals and growth prospects are capable of meeting investor expectations. Your portfolio’s chance of giving higher returns increases if you have a favorably ranked stock powered by the optimism of earnings beat in the upcoming quarter.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1 Stock of the Day pick for free.

About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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