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American Equity (AEL) Hits 52-Week High, Can the Run Continue?

Zacks Equity Research

Have you been paying attention to shares of American Equity Investment Life Holding (AEL)? Shares have been on the move with the stock up 15.4% over the past month. The stock hit a new 52-week high of $33.72 in the previous session. American Equity Investment Life Holding has gained 11.6% since the start of the year compared to the 1.4% move for the Zacks Finance sector and the -2.2% return for the Zacks Insurance - Life Insurance industry.

What's Driving the Outperformance?

The stock has a great record of positive earnings surprises, as it hasn't missed our earnings consensus estimate in any of the last four quarters. In its last earnings report on February 12, 2020, American Equity reported EPS of $1.37 versus consensus estimate of $1.03 while it missed the consensus revenue estimate by 0.31%.

For the current fiscal year, American Equity is expected to post earnings of $4.11 per share on $2.4 billion in revenues. This represents a -31.16% change in EPS on a 4.08% change in revenues. For the next fiscal year, the company is expected to earn $4.2 per share on $2.46 billion in revenues. This represents a year-over-year change of 2.07% and 2.37%, respectively.

Valuation Metrics

American Equity may be at a 52-week high right now, but what might the future hold for the stock? A key aspect of this question is taking a look at valuation metrics in order to determine if the company has run ahead of itself.

On this front, we can look at the Zacks Style Scores, as these give investors a variety of ways to comb through stocks (beyond looking at the Zacks Rank of a security). These styles are represented by grades running from A to F in the categories of Value, Growth, and Momentum, while there is a combined VGM Score as well. The idea behind the style scores is to help investors pick the most appropriate Zacks Rank stocks based on their individual investment style.

American Equity has a Value Score of A. The stock's Growth and Momentum Scores are B and D, respectively, giving the company a VGM Score of A.

In terms of its value breakdown, the stock currently trades at 8.1X current fiscal year EPS estimates. On a trailing cash flow basis, the stock currently trades at 3X versus its peer group's average of 8.4X. This isn't enough to put the company in the top echelon of all stocks we cover from a value perspective.

Zacks Rank

We also need to consider the stock's Zacks Rank, as this supersedes any trend on the style score front. Fortunately, American Equity currently has a Zacks Rank of #2 (Buy) thanks to rising earnings estimates.

Since we recommend that investors select stocks carrying Zacks Rank of 1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) and Style Scores of A or B, it looks as if American Equity passes the test. Thus, it seems as though American Equity shares could have a bit more room to run in the near term.

How Does American Equity Stack Up to the Competition?

Shares of American Equity have been soaring, and the company still appears to be a decent choice, but what about the rest of the industry? Some of its industry peers are also looking good, including China Life Insurance Company (LFC), Primerica (PRI), and American Financial Group (AFG), all of which currently have a Zacks Rank of at least #2 and a VGM Score of at least B, making them well-rounded choices.

The Zacks Industry Rank is in the top 25% of all the industries we have in our universe, so it looks like there are some nice tailwinds for American Equity, even beyond its own solid fundamental situation.


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