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Solid Sales Growth Makes These 5 Stocks Worth Buying Now

Swayta Shah
Shares of Square (SQ) have climbed over 30% in 2019 to outpace the S&P 500's 17% climb and nearly match fellow fintech power PayPal's (PYPL) jump. With that said, let's see if investors should think about buying Square heading into its first-quarter fiscal 2019 earnings release that is due out after the closing bell on Wednesday, May 1.

Investors often do not consider sales growth as a dependable metric when it comes to selecting stocks. This might be because of their preconceived notion that a company’s stock price is typically sensitive to its earnings momentum. However, betting on stocks based on such a perception may not prove worthwhile.

It’s worth keeping in mind that when companies incur a loss, albeit temporarily, they are valued on their sales not and earnings. This is because top-line growth (or decline) is usually an indicator of a company’s future earnings performance.

Also, in contrast with price to earnings and price to book value ratios, which can turn negative and cease to be relevant, the price-to-sales (P/S) ratio is available even for firms that have hit choppy waters.

Further, a company can improve earnings by resorting to cost control measures while maintaining stable revenues. However, superior profits could be achieved through continued revenue growth.Also, management has limited opportunities to manipulate sales, which further underscores the importance of P/S ratio.

A huge sales number does not necessarily convert into profits. Hence, considering a company’s cash position along with its sales number can prove to be more prudent. Substantial cash in hand and a steady cash flow lend a company more flexibility with respect to business decisions and investments.

Picking the Winning Stocks

In order to shortlist stocks that have witnessed impressive sales growth along with a high cash balance, we have selected 5-Year Historical Sales Growth (%) greater than X-Industry and Cash Flow more than $500 million as our main screening parameters.

But sales growth and cash strength are not the absolute criteria for selecting stocks. So, we added certain other factors to arrive at a winning strategy.

P/S Ratio less than X-Industry: This metric determines the value placed on each dollar of a company’s revenues. The lower the ratio, the better it is for picking a stock since the investor is paying less for each unit of sales.

% Change F1 Sales Estimate Revisions (four weeks) greater than X-Industry: Estimate revisions, better than the industry, are often seen to trigger an increase in stock price.

Operating Margin (average last five years) greater than 5%: Operating margin measures how much every dollar of a company's sales translates into profits. A high ratio indicates that the company has good cost control and sales are increasing faster than costs — an optimal situation for it.

Return on Equity (ROE) greater than 5%: This metric will ensure that sales growth is translated into profits and the company is not hoarding cash. A high ROE means the company is spending wisely and is in all likelihood profitable.

Zacks Rank less than or equal to 2: Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) stocks are known to outperform irrespective of the market environment. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Here are five of the 31 stocks that qualified the screening:    

PepsiCo PEP operates as a food and beverage company. This Purchase, NY-based company’s expected sales growth rate for 2018 is 2.9% and it carries a Zacks Rank #2.

Based in St. Petersburg, FL, Raymond James RJF engages in the underwriting, distribution, trading, and brokerage of equity and debt securities, and the sale of mutual funds and other investment products. Expected sales growth rate for fiscal 2019 is 6% and the stock sports a Zacks Rank #1.

Kansas City Southern KSU, headquartered in Kansas City, MO, is a transportation holding company, providing domestic and international rail transportation services. Its expected sales growth rate for 2019 is 2.8% and the stock carries a Zacks Rank #2.

Headquartered in Everett, WA, Fortive Corporation FTV designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and services professional and engineered products, software, and services. The company’s expected sales growth rate for 2019 is 1.7% and it carries a Zacks Rank #2.

Abbott Laboratories ABT discovers, develops, manufactures, and sells health care products. This Abbott Park, IL-based company’s sales are expected to increase at the rate of 4.4% for 2019.The stock carries a Zacks Rank #2.

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Disclosure: Officers, directors and/or employees of Zacks Investment Research may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. An affiliated investment advisory firm may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material.

Disclosure: Performance information for Zacks’ portfolios and strategies are available at: https://www.zacks.com/performance