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 National Fuel Gas Company ( NFG Quick Quote NFG - 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: PE Ratio 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, National Fuel Gas has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 15.93, 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 18.08. If we focus on the long-term PE trend, National Fuel Gas’ current PE level puts it slightly below its midpoint 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 22.90. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers. We should also point out that National Fuel Gas has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of just 15.70, so it is fair to say that a slightly more value-oriented path may be ahead for National Fuel Gas stock in the near term too. P/S Ratio 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, National Fuel Gas has a P/S ratio of about 2.81. This is a bit lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.27 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, NFG is toward the lower end of its range in the time period from a P/S metric, suggesting some level of undervalued trading—at least compared to historical norms. Broad Value Outlook In aggregate, National Fuel Gas currently has a Zacks Value Style Score of B, putting it into the top 40% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes National Fuel Gas a solid choice for value investors, and some of its other key metrics make this pretty clear too. For example, its P/CF ratio (another great indicator of value) comes in at 8.77, which is far better than the industry average of 11.76. Clearly, NFG is a solid choice on the value front from multiple angles. What About the Stock Overall? Though National Fuel Gas 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 C and a Momentum score of B. This gives NFG 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 mixed at best. The current fiscal quarter has seen no estimates go higher in the past sixty days compared to two lower, while the fiscal full year estimate has seen two upward and zero downward revisions in the same time period. As a result, the current fiscal quarter consensus estimate has fallen by 5.3% in the past two months, while the fiscal full year estimate has increased 1.2%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:
This somewhat mixed 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.
Bottom Line National Fuel Gas is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. Moreover, a strong industry rank (Top 38% out of more than 250 industries) further supports the growth potential of the stock. In fact, over the past one year, the industry has outperformed the broader market, as you can see below: However, with a Zacks Rank #3, it is hard to get too excited about this company overall. 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. Will you retire a millionaire? One out of every six people retires a multimillionaire. Get smart tips you can do today to become one of them in a new Special Report, “7 Things You Can Do Now to Retire a Multimillionaire.” Click to get it free >>