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?
Before we discuss the reliability of brokerage recommendations and how to use them to your advantage, let’s see what these Wall Street heavyweights think about General Electric (GE).
GE currently has an average brokerage recommendation (ABR) of 1.63, on a scale of 1 to 5 (Strong Buy to Strong Sell), calculated based on the actual recommendations (Buy, Hold, Sell, etc.) made by 15 brokerage firms. An ABR of 1.63 approximates between Strong Buy and Buy.
Of the 15 recommendations that derive the current ABR, nine are Strong Buy and two are Buy. Strong Buy and Buy respectively account for 60% and 13.3% of all recommendations.
Brokerage Recommendation Trends for GE
While the ABR calls for buying GE, it may not be wise to make an investment decision solely based on this information. Several studies have shown limited to no success of brokerage recommendations in guiding investors to pick stocks with the best price increase potential.
Do you wonder why? As a result of the vested interest of brokerage firms in a stock they cover, their analysts tend to rate it with a strong positive bias. According to our research, brokerage firms assign five “Strong Buy” recommendations for every “Strong Sell” recommendation.
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.
With an impressive externally audited track record, our proprietary stock rating tool, the Zacks Rank, which classifies stocks into five groups, ranging from Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) to Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell), is a reliable indicator of a stock’s near -term price performance. So, validating the Zacks Rank with ABR could go a long way in making a profitable investment decision.
Zacks Rank Should Not Be Confused With ABR
In spite of the fact that Zacks Rank and ABR both appear on a scale from 1 to 5, they are two completely different measures.
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.
Analysts employed by brokerage firms have been and continue to be overly optimistic with their recommendations. Since the ratings issued by these analysts are more favorable than their research would support because of the vested interest of their employers, they mislead investors far more often than they guide.
On the other hand, earnings estimate revisions are at the core of the Zacks Rank. And empirical research shows a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock price movements.
Furthermore, the different grades of the Zacks Rank are applied proportionately across all stocks for which brokerage analysts provide earnings estimates for the current year. In other words, at all times, this tool maintains a balance among the five ranks it assigns.
There is also a key difference between the ABR and Zacks Rank when it comes to freshness. When you look at the ABR, it may not be up-to-date. Nonetheless, since brokerage analysts constantly revise their earnings estimates to reflect changing business trends, and their actions get reflected in the Zacks Rank quickly enough, it is always timely in predicting future stock prices.
Should You Invest in GE?
In terms of earnings estimate revisions for GE, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has remained unchanged over the past month at $2.03.
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 GE. 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 GE.
Zacks Names “Single Best Pick to Double”
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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.
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