UnitedHealth Group (UNH - Free Report) came out with quarterly earnings of $3.60 per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.46 per share. This compares to earnings of $3.14 per share a year ago. These figures are adjusted for non-recurring items.
This quarterly report represents an earnings surprise of 4.05%. A quarter ago, it was expected that this largest U.S. health insurer would post earnings of $3.60 per share when it actually produced earnings of $3.73, delivering a surprise of 3.61%.
Over the last four quarters, the company has surpassed consensus EPS estimates four times.
UnitedHealth, which belongs to the Zacks Medical - HMOs industry, posted revenues of $60.60 billion for the quarter ended June 2019, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 0.12%. This compares to year-ago revenues of $56.09 billion. The company has topped consensus revenue estimates three times over the last four quarters.
The sustainability of the stock's immediate price movement based on the recently-released numbers and future earnings expectations will mostly depend on management's commentary on the earnings call.
UnitedHealth shares have added about 7% since the beginning of the year versus the S&P 500's gain of 19.1%.
What's Next for UnitedHealth?
While UnitedHealth has underperformed the market so far this year, the question that comes to investors' minds is: what's next for the stock?
There are no easy answers to this key question, but one reliable measure that can help investors address this is the company's earnings outlook. Not only does this include current consensus earnings expectations for the coming quarter(s), but also how these expectations have changed lately.
Empirical research shows a strong correlation between near-term stock movements and trends in earnings estimate revisions. Investors can track such revisions by themselves or rely on a tried-and-tested rating tool like the Zacks Rank, which has an impressive track record of harnessing the power of earnings estimate revisions.
Ahead of this earnings release, the estimate revisions trend for UnitedHealth was unfavorable. While the magnitude and direction of estimate revisions could change following the company's just-released earnings report, the current status translates into a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell) for the stock. So, the shares are expected to underperform the market in the near future. You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
It will be interesting to see how estimates for the coming quarters and current fiscal year change in the days ahead. The current consensus EPS estimate is $3.81 on $60.90 billion in revenues for the coming quarter and $14.70 on $243.88 billion in revenues for the current fiscal year.
Investors should be mindful of the fact that the outlook for the industry can have a material impact on the performance of the stock as well. In terms of the Zacks Industry Rank, Medical - HMOs is currently in the top 13% of the 250 plus Zacks industries. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperform the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.