Growth stocks are attractive to many investors, as above-average financial growth helps these stocks easily grab the market's attention and produce exceptional returns. However, it isn't easy to find a great growth stock.
That's because, these stocks usually carry above-average risk and volatility. In fact, betting on a stock for which the growth story is actually over or nearing its end could lead to significant loss.
However, the task of finding cutting-edge growth stocks is made easy with the help of the Zacks Growth Style Score (part of the Zacks Style Scores system), which looks beyond the traditional growth attributes to analyze a company's real growth prospects.
HCA Holdings (HCA - Free Report) is one such stock that our proprietary system currently recommends. The company not only has a favorable Growth Score, but also carries a top Zacks Rank.
Research shows that stocks carrying the best growth features consistently beat the market. And for stocks that have a combination of a Growth Score of A or B and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy), returns are even better.
While there are numerous reasons why the stock of this hospital operator is a great growth pick right now, we have highlighted three of the most important factors below:
Earnings growth is arguably the most important factor, as stocks exhibiting exceptionally surging profit levels tend to attract the attention of most investors. For growth investors, double-digit earnings growth is highly preferable, as it is often perceived as an indication of strong prospects (and stock price gains) for the company under consideration.
While the historical EPS growth rate for HCA is 18%, investors should actually focus on the projected growth. The company's EPS is expected to grow 7.6% this year, crushing the industry average, which calls for EPS growth of 4.1%.
Cash Flow Growth
Cash is the lifeblood of any business, but higher-than-average cash flow growth is more beneficial and important for growth-oriented companies than for mature companies. That's because, high cash accumulation enables these companies to undertake new projects without raising expensive outside funds.
Right now, year-over-year cash flow growth for HCA is 25.2%, which is higher than many of its peers. In fact, the rate compares to the industry average of 9.1%.
While investors should actually consider the current cash flow growth, it's worth taking a look at the historical rate too for putting the current reading into proper perspective. The company's annualized cash flow growth rate has been 11.3% over the past 3-5 years versus the industry average of 8.9%.
Promising Earnings Estimate Revisions
Superiority of a stock in terms of the metrics outlined above can be further validated by looking at the trend in earnings estimate revisions. A positive trend is of course favorable here. Empirical research shows that there is a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock price movements.
The current-year earnings estimates for HCA have been revising upward. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has surged 0.9% over the past month.
HCA has not only earned a Growth Score of A based on a number of factors, including the ones discussed above, but it also carries a Zacks Rank #2 because of the positive earnings estimate revisions.
You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
This combination positions HCA well for outperformance, so growth investors may want to bet on it.