Looking for an Earnings Beat? 5 Top Stocks to Play

It is not surprising that before an earnings season, every investor looks for stocks that can beat market expectations. This is because investors always try to position themselves ahead of time and look to tap high-quality stocks.

In this regard, we ran a screener that yielded American Woodmark AMWD, BJ’s Restaurants BJRI, MercadoLibre MELI, Asure Software ASUR and SkyWest SKYW as the likely winners on their earnings beat potential.

Why Is a Positive Earnings Surprise So Important?

Historically, stocks of companies with solid quarterly earnings (on a nominal basis) tank if they miss or merely meet market expectations. After all, a 20% earnings rise (though apparently looks good) doesn’t tell you if earnings growth has been exhibiting a decelerating trend.

Also, seasonal fluctuations come into play sometimes. If a company’s first quarter is seasonally weak and the fourth quarter strong, then it is likely to report a sequential earnings decline. In such cases, growth rates are misleading while judging the true health of a company.

Then again, after much brainstorming and analysis of companies’ financials and initiatives, Wall Street analysts project earnings of companies. They, in fact, club their insights and a company’s guidance when deriving an earnings estimate.

Thus, outperforming that estimate is almost equivalent to beating the company’s expectation, as well as the market perception. And if the margin of earnings surprise is big, it typically drives the stock higher right after the release. Thus, more than anything else, an earnings surprise can push a stock higher.

How to Find Stocks That Can Beat?

Now, finding stocks that have the potential to beat on the bottom line may be investors’ dream but not an easy job. One way to do this is to look at the earnings surprise history of the company.

An impressive track in this regard generally acts as a catalyst in sending a stock higher. It indicates the company’s ability to surpass estimates. Investors generally believe that the company will apply the same secret sauce to execute yet another earning beat in its next release.

The Winning Strategy

In order to shortlist stocks that are likely to come up with an earnings surprise, we chose the following as our primary screening parameters.

Last EPS Surprise greater than or equal to 10%: Stocks delivering a positive surprise in the last quarter tend to surprise again.

Average EPS Surprise in the last four quarters greater than 20%: We lifted the bar for outperformance slightly higher by setting the average earnings surprise for the last four quarters at 20%.

Average EPS Surprise in the last two quarters greater than 20%: This points to a more consistent surprise history and makes the case for another surprise even stronger.

In addition, we place a few other criteria that push up the chance of a positive surprise.

Zacks Rank less than or equal to 2: Only companies with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) rating can get through.

Earnings ESP greater than zero: A stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank of #1, 2 or 3 for an earnings beat to happen, per our proven model.

In order to zero in on those that have long-term growth potential and high trading liquidity, we have added the following parameters too:

Next 3-5 Years’ Estimated EPS Growth (Per Year) greater than 10%: Solid expected earnings growth exhibits the stock’s long-term growth prospects.

Average 20-day Volume greater than 100,000: High trading volume implies that the stocks have adequate liquidity.

A handful of criteria has narrowed down the universe from more than 7,700 stocks to only eight.

Here are five of the eight stocks:

American Woodmark: The Zacks Rank #1 company is the third-largest manufacturer of kitchen and bath cabinets.

The average earnings surprise of AMWD for the past four quarters is 25.74%.

BJ’s Restaurants: The Zacks Rank #1 company owns and operates a chain of high-end casual dining restaurants in the United States.

The average earnings surprise of BJRI for the past four quarters is 121.21%.

MercadoLibre: The Zacks Rank #1 company is one of the largest e-commerce platforms in South America. The company is a market leader in e-commerce in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico and Uruguay, based on unique visitors and page views.

The average earnings surprise of MELI for the past four quarters is 30.10%.

Asure Software: The Zacks Rank #2 company is a provider of web-based workforce management solutions.

The average earnings surprise of ASUR for the past four quarters is 676.39%.

SkyWest: The Zacks Rank #2 company operates as a regional airline in the United States through its subsidiary SkyWest Airlines.

The average earnings surprise of SKYW for the past four quarters is 31.52%.
BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. (BJRI): Free Stock Analysis Report

American Woodmark Corporation (AMWD): Free Stock Analysis Report

Asure Software Inc (ASUR): Free Stock Analysis Report

SkyWest, Inc. (SKYW): Free Stock Analysis Report

MercadoLibre, Inc. (MELI): Free Stock Analysis Report

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