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Should Value Investors Pick Universal Health (UHS) Stock?

Zacks

Value investing is easily one of the most popular ways to find great stocks in any market environment. After all, who wouldn’t want to find stocks that are either flying under the radar and are compelling buys, or offer up tantalizing discounts when compared to fair value?

One way to find these companies is by looking at several key metrics and financial ratios, many of which are crucial in the value stock selection process. Let’s put Universal Health Services, Inc. UHS stock into this equation and find out if it is a good choice for value-oriented investors right now, or if investors subscribing to this methodology should look elsewhere for top picks:

PE Ratio

A key metric that value investors always look at is the Price to Earnings Ratio, or PE for short. This shows us how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of earnings in a given stock, and is easily one of the most popular financial ratios in the world. The best use of the PE ratio is to compare the stock’s current PE ratio with: a) where this ratio has been in the past; b) how it compares to the average for the industry/sector; and c) how it compares to the market as a whole.

On this front, Universal Health has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 13.9, as you can see in the chart below:


This level actually compares pretty favorably with the market at large, as the PE for the S&P 500 stands at about 17.7. If we focus on the long-term PE trend, Universal Health’s current PE level puts it below its midpoint over the past five years.



Further, the stock’s PE also compares favorably with the Zacks Medical sector’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 20.1. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.



P/S Ratio

Another key metric to note is the Price/Sales ratio. This approach compares a given stock’s price to its total sales, where a lower reading is generally considered better. Some people like this metric more than other value-focused ones because it looks at sales, something that is far harder to manipulate with accounting tricks than earnings.

Right now, Universal Health has a P/S ratio of about 1.1. This is lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.0x right now. This is well below the highs for this stock in particular over the past few years.




If anything, UHS is in the lower end of its range in the time period from a P/S metric, suggesting some level of undervalued trading—at least compared to historical norms.

Broad Value Outlook

In aggregate, Universal Health currently has a Value Score of A, putting it into the top 20% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes Universal Health a solid choice for value investors.

What About the Stock Overall?

Though Universal Health might be a good choice for value investors, there are plenty of other factors to consider before investing in this name. In particular, it is worth noting that the company has a Growth Score of B and a Momentum Score of D. This gives UHS a Zacks VGM score — or its overarching fundamental grade — of A. (You can read more about the Zacks Style Scores here >>)

Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been downbeat. The current quarter has seen two estimates go higher in the past sixty days compared to three downward revisions, while the full year estimate has seen four up and four down in the same time period.

This has had a dismal impact on the consensus estimate though as the current quarter consensus estimate has dropped by 1.1% in the past two months, while the full year estimate has inched lower by 0.2%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:

Universal Health Services, Inc. Price and Consensus

Despite the bearish analyst sentiments, the stock has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) and we are looking for in-line performance from the company in the near term

Bottom Line

Universal Health is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. Further, a strong industry rank (among Top 40% of more than 250 industries) instills our confidence. Moreover, over the past two years, the Medical-Hospital industry has narrowly outperformed the broader market, as you can see below:



However, with a Zacks Rank of 3 it is hard to get too excited for the company overall. So, value investors might want to wait for estimates and analyst sentiment to turn around in this name first, but once that happens, this stock could be a compelling pick.

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