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UnitedHealth (UNH) Hits Fresh High: Is There Still Room to Run?

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Have you been paying attention to shares of UnitedHealth (UNH)? Shares have been on the move with the stock up 2.8% over the past month. UNH hit a new 52-week high of $264.78 in the previous session. UnitedHealth has gained 19.9% since the start of the year compared to the 6.5% move for the Zacks Medical sector and the 21% return for the Zacks Medical - HMOs industry.

What's Driving the Outperformance?

The stock has a great record of positive earnings surprises, as it hasn't missed our earnings consensus estimate in any of the last four quarters. In its last earnings report on July 17, 2018, UnitedHealth Group reported EPS of $3.14 versus consensus estimate of $3.03 while it missed the consensus revenue estimate by 0.04%.

For the current fiscal year, UnitedHealth Group is expected to post earnings of $12.72 per share on $224.86 billion in revenues. This represents a 26.32% change in EPS on a 11.78% change in revenues. For the next fiscal year, the company is expected to earn $14.42 per share on $243.1 billion in revenues. This represents a year-over-year change of 13.43% and 8.11%, respectively.

Valuation Metrics

UnitedHealth Group may be at a 52-week high right now, but what might the future hold for UNH? A key aspect of this question is taking a look at valuation metrics in order to determine if the company has run ahead of itself.

On this front, we can look at the Zacks Style Scores, as these give investors a variety of ways to comb through stocks (beyond looking at the Zacks Rank of a security). These styles are represented by grades running from A to F in the categories of Value, Growth, and Momentum, while there is a combined VGM Score as well. The idea behind the style scores is to help investors pick the most appropriate Zacks Rank stocks based on their individual investment style.

UnitedHealth Group has a Value Score of B. The stock's Growth and Momentum Scores are B and B, respectively, giving the company a VGM Score of A.

In terms of its value breakdown, the stock currently trades at 20.8X current fiscal year EPS estimates. On a trailing cash flow basis, the stock currently trades at 21X versus its peer group's average of 16.2X. Additionally, the stock has a PEG ratio of 1.57. This isn't enough to put the company in the top echelon of all stocks we cover from a value perspective.

Zacks Rank

We also need to look at the Zacks Rank for the stock, as this supersedes any trend on the style score front. Fortunately, UnitedHealth Group currently has a Zacks Rank of #2 (Buy) thanks to favorable earnings estimate revisions from covering analysts.

Since we recommend that investors select stocks carrying Zacks Rank of 1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) and Style Scores of A or B, it looks as if UnitedHealth Group fits the bill. Thus, it seems as though UNH shares could still be poised for more gains ahead.


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