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Looking for a Growth Stock? 3 Reasons Why United Natural (UNFI) is a Solid Choice

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Investors seek growth stocks to capitalize on above-average growth in financials that help these securities grab the market's attention and produce exceptional returns. But finding a growth stock that can live up to its true potential can be a tough task.

That's because, these stocks usually carry above-average risk and volatility. In fact, betting on a stock for which the growth story is actually over or nearing its end could lead to significant loss.

However, the task of finding cutting-edge growth stocks is made easy with the help of the Zacks Growth Style Score (part of the Zacks Style Scores system), which looks beyond the traditional growth attributes to analyze a company's real growth prospects.

United Natural Foods (UNFI) is on the list of such stocks currently recommended by our proprietary system. In addition to a favorable Growth Score, it carries a top Zacks Rank.

Research shows that stocks carrying the best growth features consistently beat the market. And for stocks that have a combination of a Growth Score of A or B and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy), returns are even better.

Here are three of the most important factors that make the stock of this organic and specialty foods distributor a great growth pick right now.

Earnings Growth

Arguably nothing is more important than earnings growth, as surging profit levels is what most investors are after. For growth investors, double-digit earnings growth is highly preferable, as it is often perceived as an indication of strong prospects (and stock price gains) for the company under consideration.

While the historical EPS growth rate for United Natural is 0.3%, investors should actually focus on the projected growth. The company's EPS is expected to grow 24% this year, crushing the industry average, which calls for EPS growth of 16%.

Cash Flow Growth

While cash is the lifeblood of any business, higher-than-average cash flow growth is more important and beneficial for growth-oriented companies than for mature companies. That's because, growth in cash flow enables these companies to expand their businesses without depending on expensive outside funds.

Right now, year-over-year cash flow growth for United Natural is 31.7%, which is higher than many of its peers. In fact, the rate compares to the industry average of 1.8%.

While investors should actually consider the current cash flow growth, it's worth taking a look at the historical rate too for putting the current reading into proper perspective. The company's annualized cash flow growth rate has been 32.7% over the past 3-5 years versus the industry average of 6.3%.

Promising Earnings Estimate Revisions

Beyond the metrics outlined above, investors should consider the trend in earnings estimate revisions. A positive trend is a plus here. Empirical research shows that there is a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock price movements.

There have been upward revisions in current-year earnings estimates for United Natural. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has surged 4.5% over the past month.

Bottom Line

While the overall earnings estimate revisions have made United Natural a Zacks Rank #2 stock, it has earned itself a Growth Score of A based on a number of factors, including the ones discussed above.

You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

This combination positions United Natural well for outperformance, so growth investors may want to bet on it.


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