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Accenture PLC (ACN) Is a Trending Stock: Facts to Know Before Betting on It

Accenture (ACN) is one of the stocks most watched by Zacks.com visitors lately. So, it might be a good idea to review some of the factors that might affect the near-term performance of the stock.

Shares of this consulting company have returned -5.8% over the past month versus the Zacks S&P 500 composite's -3% change. The Zacks Consulting Services industry, to which Accenture belongs, has lost 5.7% over this period. Now the key question is: Where could the stock be headed in the near term?

Although media reports or rumors about a significant change in a company's business prospects usually cause its stock to trend and lead to an immediate price change, there are always certain fundamental factors that ultimately drive the buy-and-hold decision.

Revisions to Earnings Estimates

Rather than focusing on anything else, we at Zacks prioritize evaluating the change in a company's earnings projection. This is because we believe the fair value for its stock is determined by the present value of its future stream of earnings.

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Our analysis is essentially based on how sell-side analysts covering the stock are revising their earnings estimates to take the latest business trends into account. When earnings estimates for a company go up, the fair value for its stock goes up as well. And when a stock's fair value is higher than its current market price, investors tend to buy the stock, resulting in its price moving upward. Because of this, empirical studies indicate a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and short-term stock price movements.

For the current quarter, Accenture is expected to post earnings of $3.14 per share, indicating a change of -1.6% from the year-ago quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimate has changed -0.7% over the last 30 days.

For the current fiscal year, the consensus earnings estimate of $12.09 points to a change of +3.6% from the prior year. Over the last 30 days, this estimate has remained unchanged.

For the next fiscal year, the consensus earnings estimate of $12.91 indicates a change of +6.8% from what Accenture is expected to report a year ago. Over the past month, the estimate has changed -0.6%.

With an impressive externally audited track record, our proprietary stock rating tool -- the Zacks Rank -- is a more conclusive indicator of a stock's near-term price performance, as it effectively harnesses the power of earnings estimate revisions. 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 #4 (Sell) for Accenture.

The chart below shows the evolution of the company's forward 12-month consensus EPS estimate:

12 Month EPS

Projected Revenue Growth

While earnings growth is arguably the most superior indicator of a company's financial health, nothing happens as such if a business isn't able to grow its revenues. After all, it's nearly impossible for a company to increase its earnings for an extended period without increasing its revenues. So, it's important to know a company's potential revenue growth.

In the case of Accenture, the consensus sales estimate of $16.57 billion for the current quarter points to a year-over-year change of +0%. The $65.31 billion and $69.34 billion estimates for the current and next fiscal years indicate changes of +1.9% and +6.2%, respectively.

Last Reported Results and Surprise History

Accenture reported revenues of $15.8 billion in the last reported quarter, representing a year-over-year change of -0.1%. EPS of $2.77 for the same period compares with $2.69 a year ago.

Compared to the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $15.82 billion, the reported revenues represent a surprise of -0.14%. The EPS surprise was +4.14%.

The company beat consensus EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters. The company topped consensus revenue estimates just once over this period.

Valuation

No investment decision can be efficient without considering a stock's valuation. Whether a stock's current price rightly reflects the intrinsic value of the underlying business and the company's growth prospects is an essential determinant of its future price performance.

Comparing the current value of a company's valuation multiples, such as its price-to-earnings (P/E), price-to-sales (P/S), and price-to-cash flow (P/CF), to its own historical values helps ascertain whether its stock is fairly valued, overvalued, or undervalued, whereas comparing the company relative to its peers on these parameters gives a good sense of how reasonable its stock price is.

As part of the Zacks Style Scores system, the Zacks Value Style Score (which evaluates both traditional and unconventional valuation metrics) organizes stocks into five groups ranging from A to F (A is better than B; B is better than C; and so on), making it helpful in identifying whether a stock is overvalued, rightly valued, or temporarily undervalued.

Accenture is graded C on this front, indicating that it is trading at par with its peers. Click here to see the values of some of the valuation metrics that have driven this grade.

Conclusion

The facts discussed here and much other information on Zacks.com might help determine whether or not it's worthwhile paying attention to the market buzz about Accenture. However, its Zacks Rank #4 does suggest that it may underperform the broader market in the near term.

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