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Is Heritage Financial (HFWA) a Profitable Stock To Pick Now?

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Zacks Equity Research
·5 min read
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Value investing is easily one of the most popular ways to find great stocks in any market environment. After all, who wouldn’t want to find stocks that are either flying under the radar and are compelling buys, or offer up tantalizing discounts when compared to fair value?

One way to find these companies is by looking at several key metrics and financial ratios, many of which are crucial in the value stock selection process. Let’s put, Heritage Financial Corporation  HFWA stock into this equation and find out if it is a good choice for value-oriented investors right now, or if investors subscribing to this methodology should look elsewhere for top picks:

PE Ratio

A key metric that value investors always look at is the Price to Earnings Ratio, or PE for short. This shows us how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of earnings in a given stock, and is easily one of the most popular financial ratios in the world. The best use of the PE ratio is to compare the stock’s current PE ratio with: a) where this ratio has been in the past; b) how it compares to the average for the industry/sector; and c) how it compares to the market as a whole.

On this front, Heritage Financial Corporation has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 12.40, as you can see in the chart below:


 
This level actually compares pretty favorably with the market at large, as the PE for the S&P 500 compares in at about 12.40. If we focus on the stock’s long-term PE trend, the current level Heritage Financial Corporation puts current PE ratio  below its midpoint (which is 17.35) over the past five years.


 
Also, the stock’s PE compares favorably with the Zacks Finance sector’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 13.80. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.


 
We should also point out that Heritage Financial Corporation has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of 16.10, so it is fair to expect an increase in the company’s share price in the near future.

P/S Ratio

Another key metric to note is the Price/Sales ratio. This approach compares a given stock’s price to its total sales, where a lower reading is generally considered better. Some people like this metric more than other value-focused ones because it looks at sales, something that is far harder to manipulate with accounting tricks than earnings.

Right now, the stock has a P/S ratio of about 3.08. This is substantially lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.43 right now. Also, as we can see in the chart below, this is slightly below the highs for this stock in particular over the past few years.


 
If anything, this suggests some level of undervalued trading—at least compared to historical norms.   

Broad Value Outlook

In aggregate, Heritage Financial Corporation currently has a Value Style Score of B, putting it into the top 40% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes HFWA a solid choice for value investors.

What About the Stock Overall?

Though Heritage Financial Corporation might be a good choice for value investors, there are plenty of other factors to consider before investing in this name. In particular, it is worth noting that the company has a Growth grade of C and a Momentum score of C. This gives HFWA a VGM score—or its overarching fundamental grade—of B. (You can read more about the Zacks Style Scores here >>).

Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been mixed at best. The current quarter has seen two estimates go lower in the past sixty days and one higher, while current year  estimate has seen two downward and two upward revision in the same time period.

This has had a noticeable impact on the consensus estimate. The current quarter consensus estimate has declined 11.1% in the past two months, while the current year estimate has climbed 8.3% in the same time period. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:

Heritage Financial Corporation Price and Consensus

Heritage Financial Corporation Price and Consensus
Heritage Financial Corporation Price and Consensus

Heritage Financial Corporation price-consensus-chart | Heritage Financial Corporation Quote

 

This mixed trend is why the stock has just a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) and why we are looking for in-line performance from the company in the near term.

Bottom Line

Heritage Financial Corporation is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front.  However with a sluggish industry rank (bottom 39% out of more than 250 industries) and a Zacks Rank#3 , it is hard to get excited about the stock overall. In fact, over the past one year, the sector has clearly underperformed the broader market, as you can see below:


 
So, value investors might want to wait for estimates,  analyst sentiment and broader factors to turn around in this name first, but once that happens, this stock could be a compelling pick.

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