Is CVS Health a Buy as Wall Street Analysts Look Optimistic?

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 CVS Health CVS.

CVS Health currently has an average brokerage recommendation of 1.98, on a scale of 1 to 5 (Strong Buy to Strong Sell), calculated based on the actual recommendations (Buy, Hold, Sell, etc.) made by 25 brokerage firms. An ABR of 1.98 approximates between Strong Buy and Buy.

Of the 25 recommendations that derive the current ABR, 11 are Strong Buy and three are Buy. Strong Buy and Buy respectively account for 44% and 12% of all recommendations.

Brokerage Recommendation Trends for CVS

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.

This means that the interests of these institutions are not always aligned with those of retail investors, giving little insight into the direction of a stock's future price movement. It would therefore be best to use this information to validate your own analysis or a tool that has proven to be highly effective at predicting stock price movements.

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

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.

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.

Is CVS a Good Investment?

Looking at the earnings estimate revisions for CVS Health, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has declined 0.1% over the past month to $7.02.

Analysts' growing pessimism over the company's earnings prospects, as indicated by strong agreement among them in revising EPS estimates lower, could be a legitimate reason for the stock to plunge 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 #5 (Strong Sell) for CVS Health.

Therefore, it could be wise to take the Buy-equivalent ABR for CVS Health with a grain of salt.

To read this article on Zacks.com click here.

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