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Funtober: Has the Market Shifted into Rally Mode?

The proverbial winds of the stock market have a way of shifting without much notice. Markets are off to a great start to the historically positive fourth quarter, and with most stocks hovering in sustained downtrends, now is the time to build a watchlist of buyable stocks so that you’re ready to pounce. As stocks bounce from oversold levels, new opportunities are being created in the process – a welcomed sight for bullish investors.

That being said, if we have indeed seen a bottom (or are nearing one), the market’s direction will not be a straight line back up. It’s always choppy along the way, even in the strongest bull markets.

While it’s tempting to purchase a stock that has dropped significantly in price, a more prudent course of action is to target stocks that weathered this year’s volatility and are breaking out to the upside. Stocks that hold up well through bear markets typically go on to produce substantial gains once the bull market resumes. 

An additional method of narrowing down the playing field is to view a stock’s industry group. Historical research studies suggest that approximately half of a stock’s price appreciation is due to its industry grouping. In fact, the top 50% of Zacks Ranked Industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1. It’s no secret that investing in stocks that are part of leading industry groups can give us a leg up relative to the market. By focusing on leading stocks within the top 50% of Zacks Ranked Industries, we can dramatically improve our stock-picking success.

The Zacks Staffing Firms industry group is ranked in the top 19% out of approximately 250 industries. The group contains several stocks that have not only shown resilience this year, but are now leading the upside and breaking out to new 52-week highs. Also note the favorable characteristics for this industry below:

Zacks Investment Research
Zacks Investment Research

Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

Let’s take a closer look at one stock within this group that is currently breaking out.

Cross Country Healthcare, Inc. (CCRN)

Cross Country Healthcare provides innovative healthcare workforce solutions and staffing services. Headquartered in Boca Raton, FL, CCRN has built a diverse client base including hospitals, physician groups, ambulatory-care centers, nursing facilities, government organizations, as well as both public and charter schools.

CCRN has put together a string of positive earnings surprises, exceeding estimates in each of the last four quarters. The company has delivered an average surprise of 25.78% over this time frame, which has aided the stock’s 22.5% return this year – all while the major indices entered a severe bear market.

Zacks Investment Research
Zacks Investment Research

Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

Analysts have revised their full-year earnings estimates upward by 1.48% in the last 60 days. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2022 sits at $4.79/share, representing a staggering 56.5% growth rate over 2021.

Zacks Investment Research
Zacks Investment Research

Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

What the Zacks Model Unveils

Our proprietary model is predicting an earnings beat for CCRN for the third quarter announcement. The Zacks ESP (Earnings Surprise Prediction) seeks to find companies that have recently seen positive earnings estimate revision activity. When combining a Zacks #3 ranking or better with a positive ESP, stocks produced a positive earnings surprise 70% of the time.

With a current ESP of +1.22%, CCRN is primed for yet another positive earnings surprise. The company is scheduled to report the quarterly results on November 2nd.

Make sure to keep an eye on CCRN and Staffing Firms industry as we head deeper into the fourth quarter.

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