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Moody's (MCO) Moves to Buy: Rationale Behind the Upgrade

Zacks Equity Research

Moody's (MCO) appears an attractive pick, as it has been recently upgraded to a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). This rating change essentially reflects an upward trend in earnings estimates -- one of the most powerful forces impacting stock prices.

The Zacks rating relies solely on a company's changing earnings picture. It tracks EPS estimates for the current and following years from the sell-side analysts covering the stock through a consensus measure -- the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Individual investors often find it hard to make decisions based on rating upgrades by Wall Street analysts, since these are mostly driven by subjective factors that are hard to see and measure in real time. In these situations, the Zacks rating system comes in handy because of the power of a changing earnings picture in determining near-term stock price movements.

As such, the Zacks rating upgrade for Moody's is essentially a positive comment on its earnings outlook that could have a favorable impact on its stock price.

Most Powerful Force Impacting Stock Prices

The change in a company's future earnings potential, as reflected in earnings estimate revisions, has proven to be strongly correlated with the near-term price movement of its stock. That's partly because of the influence of institutional investors that use earnings and earnings estimates for calculating the fair value of a company's shares. An increase or decrease in earnings estimates in their valuation models simply results in higher or lower fair value for a stock, and institutional investors typically buy or sell it. Their bulk investment action then leads to price movement for the stock.

For Moody's, rising earnings estimates and the consequent rating upgrade fundamentally mean an improvement in the company's underlying business. And investors' appreciation of this improving business trend should push the stock higher.

Harnessing the Power of Earnings Estimate Revisions

Empirical research shows a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock movements, so it could be truly rewarding if such revisions are tracked for making an investment decision. Here is where the tried-and-tested Zacks Rank stock-rating system plays an important role, as it effectively harnesses the power of earnings estimate revisions.

The Zacks Rank stock-rating system, which uses four factors related to earnings estimates to classify stocks into five groups, ranging from Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) to Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell), has an impressive externally-audited track record, with Zacks Rank #1 stocks generating an average annual return of +25% since 1988. You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here >>>>.

Earnings Estimate Revisions for Moody's

This credit ratings agency is expected to earn $8.04 per share for the fiscal year ending December 2019, which represents a year-over-year change of 8.8%.

Analysts have been steadily raising their estimates for Moody's. Over the past three months, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the company has increased 1.7%.

Bottom Line

Unlike the overly optimistic Wall Street analysts whose rating systems tend to be weighted toward favorable recommendations, the Zacks rating system maintains an equal proportion of 'buy' and 'sell' ratings for its entire universe of more than 4000 stocks at any point in time. Irrespective of market conditions, only the top 5% of the Zacks-covered stocks get a 'Strong Buy' rating and the next 15% get a 'Buy' rating. So, the placement of a stock in the top 20% of the Zacks-covered stocks indicates its superior earnings estimate revision feature, making it a solid candidate for producing market-beating returns in the near term.

You can learn more about the Zacks Rank here >>>

The upgrade of Moody's to a Zacks Rank #2 positions it in the top 20% of the Zacks-covered stocks in terms of estimate revisions, implying that the stock might move higher in the near term.


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