Analysts are betting on stocks like Apple and Snap during earnings


Evan Spiegel, CEO and co-founder of Snap Inc.

Adam Galica | CNBC

With earnings season gathering pace, now is the time to re-evaluate your portfolio. However, in such an unpredictable environment, investors need to be particularly savvy when making critical investing decisions.

“Markets are now hoping for (and trading on) a smooth election, a big stimulus, the end of the pandemic, and the economy being back to 2019 normal early next year,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network. This makes the market particularly vulnerable to disappointment. Indeed, the S&P 500 pulled back this week as stimulus hopes wane and corona fears resurface.

In order to find compelling investing opportunities, it’s worth following the latest stock recommendations from analysts with a proven track record of success. TipRanks analyst forecasting service attempts to pinpoint Wall Street’s best-performing analysts. These are the analysts with the highest success rate and average return measured on a one-year basis — factoring in the number of ratings made by each analyst. 

Here are the best-performing analysts’ five favorite stocks right now:

Microsoft

For five-star RBC Capital analyst Alex Zukin, Microsoft remains one of his favorite near-term calls into earnings. On October 12, he reiterated his MSFT buy rating and took his price forecast from $230 to $250 (13% upside potential).

In a report titled ‘The King Is Back’, Zukin says checks suggest business trends are normalizing which, combined with conservative guidance, should provide upside to estimates.

“Our checks on Microsoft come back strong, with partner feedback leading us to believe the company likely met or exceeded internal expectations” the analyst commented. Primary drivers of success are still Azure and O365/Teams- with ‘strong large deal activity’ for Azure.

As a result, Zukin now sees a path for MSFT to deliver yet another year of 10%+ revenue growth. Specifically, he is modeling for ~3% upside potential to Total Revenue, resulting in 1Q21 revenue of $36.8B (+11% Y/Y) vs. consensus of $35.8B (+8% Y/Y).

“Multi-year growth engines of O365 and Azure continue to show fundamental strength, and margin expansion across Commercial Cloud is continuing with scale and execution” sums up Zukin.

With a 78% success rate and 33% average return per rating, this is one of the Top 10 analysts tracked by TipRanks.

Apple

On October 13, Apple hosted its highly anticipated virtual event “Hi, Speed”. For Needham analyst Laura Martin, the event confirmed her bullish outlook on the iPhone maker. She reiterated her buy rating on October 14 with a $140 stock price forecast (16% upside potential).

Interestingly AAPL chose to highlight its HomePod Mini before discussing the new iPhone 12s. “Given AAPL’s hyper-produced videos we believe presentation order signals that AAPL is committed to turning individual iPhone owners into ‘iOS Homes'” says Martin.

If successful, this new strategy could build value faster than in the past. For example, buying an in-home product like a HomePod Mini encourages all family members to join iOS, lowering AAPL’s customer acquisition costs. And most AAPL services now have family plan discounted pricing, which raises the cost for any family plan member to leave AAPL’s ecosystem.

“We believe that AAPL’s pivot toward maximizing value per home is supported by its introduction of 4 new [iPhone] models intended to extract the most value per person in the home, based on their age and income levels” the analyst explains. Plus low priced iPhone choices attract new consumers to AAPL’s ecosystem.

With a Top 100 ranking on TipRanks, Martin is currently tracking a 24.4% average return per rating.

AutoZone

Top Raymond James analyst Matthew McClintock has just upgraded AutoZone from buy to strong buy. And in a further bullish signal, he also ramped up his price forecast from $1,500 to $1,565 (34% upside potential).

According to McClintock, the auto parts giant deserves a premium valuation relative to historical averages. That’s due to AZO‘s improving parts availability/e-commerce fulfillment capabilities which he believes should yield outsized market share gains.

“The next few years of EPS expectations are higher than ever, yet the stock is flattish YTD and trades at a discount to history” the analyst told investors.

Encouragingly, management recently gave rare forward commentary for the first time in at least five years, which McClintock cites as positive for both the forward quarter (1Q21) and forward year (FY21). For instance, on the most recent earnings call, CEO Bill Rhodes remarked that “based on our performance post-enhanced unemployment, we feel our sales will remain elevated for some time.”

Net-net “AZO is the proven, best-in-breed, consistent, long-term retail story that investors only get few chances over an entire career to acquire at a discount” the analyst concluded on October 13, adding: “AZO is now our top pick.”

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Analysts are betting on stocks like Apple and Snap during earnings

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