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 Quest Diagnostics Incorporated (DGX - 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, Quest Diagnostics has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 14.0, 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 stands at about 17.7. If we focus on the long-term PE trend, Quest Diagnostics’ current PE level puts it below its midpoint over the past five years.
Further, the stock’s PE also compares favorably with the Zacks Medical sector’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 20.1. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.
We should also point out that Quest Diagnostics has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of just 13.5, so it is fair to say that a slightly more value-oriented path may be ahead for Quest Diagnostics stock in the near term too.
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, Quest Diagnostics has a P/S ratio of about 1.6. This is 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 below the highs for this stock in particular over the past few years.
If anything, DGX 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, Quest Diagnostics currently has a Value Score of B, putting it into the top 40% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes Quest Diagnostics a solid choice for value investors, and some of its other key metrics make this pretty clear too.
For example, the P/CF ratio for Quest Diagnostics came in at 10.7, which is a bit lower than the industry average of 10.8. Clearly, Quest Diagnostics is a solid choice on the value front from multiple angles.
What About the Stock Overall?
Though Quest Diagnostics 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 Score of B and a Momentum Score of F. This gives DGX a Zacks VGM score — or its overarching fundamental grade — of B. (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 eight estimates go lower in the past sixty days compared to no movement in the opposite direction, while the full year estimate has seen eight down and one up in the same time period.
This has had a negative impact on the consensus estimate though as the current quarter consensus estimate has declined by 13.9% in the past two months, while the full year estimate has decreased by 2.1%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:
Despite the bearish analyst sentiments, the stock holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Thus, we are looking for in-line performance from the company in the near term.
Quest Diagnostics is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible line up of statistics on this front.
However, with a sluggish industry rank (among bottom 37% 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 two years, the Zacks Medical-Outpatient and Home Healthcare industry has clearly underperformed the market at large, 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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