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The Zacks Rank Explained: How to Find Strong Buy Computer and Technology 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.

How do you find the right combination of stocks that will generate returns that could fund your retirement, or your kids' college tuition, or your short- and long-term savings goals?

Enter the Zacks Rank.

What is the Zacks Rank?

A unique, proprietary stock-rating model, the Zacks Rank uses earnings estimate revisions, or changes to a company's earnings expectations, to help investors create a winning portfolio.

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.

These four factors are assigned a raw score that's recalculated every night, which is then compiled into the ranking system. Stocks are classified into five groups using this data, 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.

These investors are known for designing valuation models that focus on earnings and earnings expectations in order to figure out the fair value of a company and its shares. If earnings estimates are raised, it puts a higher value on a company.

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 Nvidia (NVDA), which was added to the Zacks Rank #1 list on April 16, 2021.

NVIDIA Corporation is the worldwide leader in visual computing technologies and the inventor of the graphic processing unit, or GPU. Over the years, the company’s focus has evolved from PC graphics to artificial intelligence (AI) based solutions that now support high performance computing (HPC), gaming and virtual reality (VR) platforms.

13 analysts revised their earnings estimate upwards in the last 60 days for fiscal 2022. The Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $1.85 to $13.56 per share. NVDA boasts an average earnings surprise of 10.7%.

Analysts are expecting earnings to grow 35.6% for the current fiscal year, with revenue forecasted to rise 34.9%.

NVDA has been moving higher over the past four weeks as well, up 21.8% compared to the S&P 500's gain of 7%.

Bottom Line

With a #1 (Strong Buy) ranking, positive trend in earnings estimate revisions, and strong market momentum, Nvidia 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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