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The Zacks Rank Explained: How to Find Strong Buy Basic Materials Stocks

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Building a successful investment portfolio takes skill and hard work, no matter if you're a growth, value, income, or momentum-focused investor.

But how do you find the right combination of stocks? Funding your retirement, your kids' college tuition, or your short- and long-term savings goals certainly requires significant returns.

Enter the Zacks Rank.

What is the Zacks Rank?

The Zacks Rank, which is a unique, proprietary stock-rating model, employs earnings estimate revisions, or changes to a company's earnings expectations, that makes building a winning portfolio easier.

There are four main factors behind the Zacks Rank: Agreement, Magnitude, Upside, and Surprise.

Agreement is the extent to which all brokerage analysts are revising their earnings estimates in the same direction. The greater the percentage of analysts revising their estimates higher, the better chance the stock will outperform.

Magnitude is the size of the recent change in the consensus estimate for the current and next fiscal years.

Upside is the difference between the most accurate estimate, which is calculated by Zacks, and the consensus estimate.

Surprise is made up of a company's last few quarters' earnings per share surprises; companies with a positive earnings surprise are more likely to beat expectations in the future.

Each one of these factors is given a raw score that's recalculated every night, and then compiled into the Zacks Rank. Using this data, stocks are classified into five groups, ranging from "Strong Buy" to "Strong Sell."

The Power of Institutional Investors

The Zacks Rank also allows individual investors, or retail investors, to benefit from the power of institutional investors.

Institutional investors are the professionals who manage the trillions of dollars invested in mutual funds, investment banks, and hedge funds. Studies have shown that these investors can and do move the market due to the large amounts of money they invest with. Because of this, the market tends to move in the same direction as institutional investors.

In order to determine the fair value of a company and its shares, institutional investors design valuation models that focus on earnings and earnings estimates. Because if you raise earnings estimates, it then creates a higher fair value for a company and its stock price.

Institutional investors then act on these changes in earnings estimates, typically buying stocks with rising estimates and selling those with falling estimates; an increase in earnings estimates can translate into higher stock prices and bigger gains for the investor.

Because it can take a long time for an institutional investor to build a position -- sometimes weeks, if not months -- retail investors who get in at the first sign of upward revisions have a distinct advantage over these larger investors, and can benefit from the expected institutional buying that will follow.

Not only can the Zacks Rank help you take advantage of trends in earnings estimate revisions, but it can also provide a way to get into stocks that are highly sought after by professionals.

How to Invest with the Zacks Rank

The Zacks Rank is known for transforming investment portfolios. In fact, a portfolio of Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks has beaten the market in 26 of the last 32 years, with an average annual return of +25.41%.

Moreover, stocks with a new #1 (Strong Buy) ranking have some of the biggest profit potential, while those that fell to a #4 (Sell) or #5 (Strong Sell) have some of the worst.

Let's take a look at Nucor (NUE), which was added to the Zacks Rank #1 list on March 10, 2021.

Headquartered in Charlotte, NC, Nucor Corporation is a leading producer of structural steel, steel bars, steel joists, steel deck and cold finished bars in the United States. It also produces direct reduced iron (“DRI”) that is used in its steel mills. The company has 123 operating facilities, primarily in the United States and Canada. Also, most of its operating facilities and customers are located in North America.

For fiscal 2021, three analysts revised their earnings estimate upwards in the last 60 days, and the Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $6.91 to $18.20 per share. NUE boasts an average earnings surprise of 8.1%.

Analysts are expecting earnings to grow 444.9% for the current fiscal year, with revenue forecasted to rise 65.7%.

Even more impressive, NUE has gained in value over the past four weeks, up 7% compared to the S&P 500's gain of 3.1%.

Bottom Line

With a #1 (Strong Buy) ranking, positive trend in earnings estimate revisions, and strong market momentum, Nucor should be on investors' shortlist.

If you want even more information on the Zacks Ranks, or one of our many other investing strategies, check out the Zacks Education home page.

Discover Today's Top Stocks

Our private Zacks #1 Rank List, based on our quantitative Zacks Rank stock-rating system, has more than doubled the S&P 500 since 1988. Applying the Zacks Rank in your own trading can boost your investing returns on your very next trade. See Today's Zacks #1 Rank List >>


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