When deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold a stock, investors often rely on analyst recommendations. Media reports about rating changes by these brokerage-firm-employed (or sell-side) analysts often influence a stock’s price, but are they really important?
Let’s take a look at what these Wall Street heavyweights have to say about CVS Health (CVS) before we discuss the reliability of brokerage recommendations and how to use them to your advantage.
CVS Health currently has an average brokerage recommendation (ABR) of 1.62, on a scale of 1 to 5 (Strong Buy to Strong Sell), calculated based on the actual recommendations (Buy, Hold, Sell, etc.) made by 17 brokerage firms. An ABR of 1.62 approximates between Strong Buy and Buy.
Of the 17 recommendations that derive the current ABR, 10 are Strong Buy and three are Buy. Strong Buy and Buy respectively account for 58.8% and 17.7% of all recommendations.
Brokerage Recommendation Trends for CVS
Check price target & stock forecast for CVS Health here>>>
The ABR suggests buying CVS Health, but making an investment decision solely on the basis of this information might not be a good idea. According to several studies, brokerage recommendations have little to no success guiding investors to choose stocks with the most potential for price appreciation.
Are you wondering why? The vested interest of brokerage firms in a stock they cover often results in a strong positive bias of their analysts in rating it. Our research shows that for every “Strong Sell” recommendation, brokerage firms assign five “Strong Buy” recommendations.
In other words, their interests aren’t always aligned with retail investors, rarely indicating where the price of a stock could actually be heading. Therefore, the best use of this information could be validating your own research or an indicator that has proven to be highly successful in predicting a stock’s price movement.
Zacks Rank, our proprietary stock rating tool with an impressive externally audited track record, categorizes stocks into five groups, ranging from Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) to Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell), and is an effective indicator of a stock’s price performance in the near future. Therefore, using the ABR to validate the Zacks Rank could be an efficient way of making a profitable investment decision.
ABR Should Not Be Confused With Zacks Rank
Although both Zacks Rank and ABR are displayed in a range of 1-5, they are different measures altogether.
Broker recommendations are the sole basis for calculating the ABR, which is typically displayed in decimals (such as 1.28). The Zacks Rank, on the other hand, is a quantitative model designed to harness the power of earnings estimate revisions. It is displayed in whole numbers — 1 to 5.
It has been and continues to be the case that analysts employed by brokerage firms are overly optimistic with their recommendations. Because of their employers’ vested interests, these analysts issue more favorable ratings than their research would support, misguiding investors far more often than helping them.
In contrast, the Zacks Rank is driven by earnings estimate revisions. And near-term stock price movements are strongly correlated with trends in earnings estimate revisions, according to empirical research.
In addition, the different Zacks Rank grades are applied proportionately to all stocks for which brokerage analysts provide current-year earnings estimates. In other words, this tool always maintains a balance among its five ranks.
Another key difference between the ABR and Zacks Rank is freshness. The ABR is not necessarily up-to-date when you look at it. But, since brokerage analysts keep revising their earnings estimates to account for a company’s changing business trends, and their actions get reflected in the Zacks Rank quickly enough, it is always timely in indicating future price movements.
Should You Invest in CVS?
Looking at the earnings estimate revisions for CVS Health, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has remained unchanged over the past month at $8.83.
Analysts’ steady views regarding the company’s earnings prospects, as indicated by an unchanged consensus estimate, could be a legitimate reason for the stock to perform in line with the broader market in the near term.
The size of the recent change in the consensus estimate, along with three other factors related to earnings estimates, has resulted in a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) for CVS Health. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks here >>>>
It may therefore be prudent to be a little cautious with the Buy-equivalent ABR for CVS Health.