Encouraging service activities, along with increased adoption and the success of the work-from-home trend, are enabling the Zacks Consulting Services industry players to support the demand environment.
Driven by the abovementioned positives, investors interested in the industry would do well to keep stocks like Exponent, Inc. EXPO, CBIZ, Inc. CBZ and Huron Consulting Group Inc. HURN to sail through these testing times.
About the Industry
Companies grouped under the Consulting Services category offer professional advice in management, IT, human resources, environmental regulations, logistics and marketing, and real estate, serving multiple end markets. The space includes prominent names such as Accenture and Gartner. Amid the pandemic, the focus within the industry is currently on channelizing money and efforts toward more effective operational components, such as technology, digital transformation and data-driven decision-making. To position themselves suitably in the post-pandemic era and better utilize the opportunities that an economic recovery will bring, service providers are increasing their efforts toward formulating and reassessing strategic initiatives, identifying sources of demand and targeting end markets.
What's Shaping the Future of Consulting Services Industry?
Exponential Growth: This multi-billion-dollar industry has witnessed exponential growth since the 2008 financial crisis, enjoying a steady rate of revenues, profit and cash-flow growth. Consequently, the trend has enabled most industry players to pay out stable dividends.
Pandemic Resiliency: The consulting services industry is one of those least affected by the pandemic. This is because, even amid a volatile situation, organizations require extensive advice on how to protect their employees, and stay closer to consumers and shareholders. Further, this industry is one of the earliest pioneers of remote working that has now become part of the new normal. The nature of work enables industry players to function efficiently through the increased use of technology.
Non-stop Service Demand: With service activities in good shape, the demand for consulting services is rising steadily. The Services PMI measured by the Institute for Supply Management has stayed above the 50% mark for the past five consecutive months, indicating continued expansion.
Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Bright Prospects
The Consulting Services industry, housed within the broader Business Services sector, currently carries a Zacks Industry Rank #84. This rank places it in the top 34% of 249 Zacks industries.
The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates solid near-term growth prospects. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperform the bottom 50% by a factor of more than two to one.
Before we present a few stocks that you may want to consider for your portfolio, let’s take a look at the industry’s recent stock market performance and current valuation.
Industry's Price Performance
Over the past year, the Consulting Services industry has outperformed the S&P 500 composite and the broader sector. The industry has gained 4.9% compared with the S&P 500 composite’s rise of 3.4%. The broader sector has declined 7.3%, in the said time frame.
One-Year Price Performance
Industry's Current Valuation
On the basis of the forward 12-month price-to-earnings (P/E), which is a commonly used multiple for valuing consulting services companies, we see that the industry is currently trading at 25.07X, above the S&P 500’s 19.03X and the sector’s 21.81X.
Over the past five years, the industry has traded as high as 37.08X, as low as 19.74X and at a median of 25.07X, as the charts below show.
Price to Forward 12 Months P/E Ratio
3 Consulting Services Stocks to Consider
We present three stocks that are well-positioned for near-term growth.
Exponent: This science and engineering consulting company is witnessing strong demand for its services from the transportation, utilities, consumer electronics, and life sciences industries, which is benefiting its engineering and other scientific segment. Safety related engagements and activities in the life sciences industry are also in good shape, aiding the company’s environmental and health segment.
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the company’s 2023 EPS suggests a 7.1% improvement from the year-ago reported number. The consensus EPS estimate for the year has increased 1% over the past 60 days. EXPO currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
Price and Consensus: EXPO
Huron Consulting: This provider of consultancy services is currently witnessing strength across its healthcare, education and commercial segments. Sales remain healthy, driven by growing demand for technology and analytics, financial advisory, digital, revenue cycle managed services and performance improvement offerings.
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the company’s 2023 EPS suggests a 11.5% improvement from the year-ago reported number. The consensus EPS estimate for the year has increased 2.5% over the past 30 days. HURN currently carries a Zacks Rank #2.
You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Price and Consensus: HURN
CBIZ: This provider of financial, insurance and advisory services is currently benefiting from strong organic revenue growth, as well as contributions from recent acquisitions. Within CBIZ’s financial services group, top-line growth across all major service lines is being driven by the company’s investments in systems, reporting, tools and training that have helped it improve the pricing of services. Further, strong sales and high client retention rates support the performance of the company’s Benefits and Insurance Group.
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the company’s 2023 earnings suggests a 13.1% improvement from the year-ago reported number. The consensus estimate for EPS for the year has increased 0.4% over the past 60 days. CBIZ currently carries a Zacks Rank #2.
Price and Consensus: CBZ
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