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Is Legg Mason (LM) a Profitable Pick for Value Investors?

Zacks Equity Research

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 Legg Mason, Inc. LM 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, Legg Mason has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 12.10, 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 stands at about 17.85. If we focus on the long-term PE trend, Legg Mason’s current PE level puts it below its midpoint over the past five years.

 

Further, the stock’s PE compares favorably with the Zacks Finance sector’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 14.01. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.

 

We should also point out that Legg Mason has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of just 11.34, so it is fair to say that a slightly more value-oriented path may be ahead for Legg Mason stock in the near term too.

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, Legg Mason has a P/S ratio of about 1.09. This is lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.24 right now.  Also, as we can see in the chart below, this is below the highs for this stock in particular over the past few years. 

 

If anything, LM is near the lower end of its range in the time period from a P/S metric, suggesting some level of undervalued trading—at least compared to historical norms. 

Broad Value Outlook

In aggregate, Legg Mason currently has a Zacks Value Score of B, putting it into the top 40% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes Legg Mason a solid choice for value investors, and some of its other key metrics make this pretty clear too.  

For example, the PEG ratio for Legg Mason is just 0.70, a level that is lower than the industry average of 1.65. The PEG ratio is a modified PE ratio that takes into account the stock’s earnings growth rate. Additionally, its P/CF ratio comes in at 3.85, which is lower than the industry average of 8.96. Clearly, LM is a solid choice on the value front from multiple angles.

What About the Stock Overall?

Though Legg Mason 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 Score of C and a Momentum Score of B. This gives LM a Zacks 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 encouraging. The current quarter has seen three estimates go higher in the past sixty days compared to one lower, while the current year estimate has seen five upward revision compared to one downward in the same time period.

This has had a positive impact on the consensus estimate though as the current quarter consensus estimate has increased by 3.2% in the past two months, while the current year estimate has increased by 4.5%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:

Legg Mason, Inc. Price and Consensus

 

Legg Mason, Inc. Price and Consensus

Legg Mason, Inc. price-consensus-chart | Legg Mason, Inc. Quote

This bullish trend is why the stock boasts a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and why we are expecting outperformance from the company in the near term.

Bottom Line 

Legg Mason is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible line up of statistics on this front. A strong industry rank (among top 30% of more than 250 industries) and a Zacks Rank #1 further instils our confidence.

However, over the past two years, the Zacks Financial - Investment Management industry has clearly underperformed the market at large, as you can see below:

 

So, value investors might want to wait for industry trends to turn favorable in this name first, but once that happens, this stock could be a compelling pick.

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