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Wall Street Bulls Look Optimistic About NRG (NRG): Should You Buy?

The recommendations of Wall Street analysts are often relied on by investors when deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold a stock. Media reports about these brokerage-firm-employed (or sell-side) analysts changing their ratings often affect a stock's price. Do they really matter, though?

Let's take a look at what these Wall Street heavyweights have to say about NRG Energy (NRG) before we discuss the reliability of brokerage recommendations and how to use them to your advantage.

NRG currently has an average brokerage recommendation (ABR) of 2.00, on a scale of 1 to 5 (Strong Buy to Strong Sell), calculated based on the actual recommendations (Buy, Hold, Sell, etc.) made by eight brokerage firms. An ABR of 2.00 indicates Buy.

Of the eight recommendations that derive the current ABR, four are Strong Buy, representing 50% of all recommendations.

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Brokerage Recommendation Trends for NRG

Broker Rating Breakdown Chart for NRG
Broker Rating Breakdown Chart for NRG



Check price target & stock forecast for NRG here>>>

While the ABR calls for buying NRG, it may not be wise to make an investment decision solely based on this information. Several studies have shown limited to no success of brokerage recommendations in guiding investors to pick stocks with the best price increase potential.

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

Although both Zacks Rank and ABR are displayed in a range of 1-5, they are different measures altogether.

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.

It has been and continues to be the case that analysts employed by brokerage firms are overly optimistic with their recommendations. Because of their employers' vested interests, these analysts issue more favorable ratings than their research would support, misguiding investors far more often than helping them.

In contrast, the Zacks Rank is driven by earnings estimate revisions. And near-term stock price movements are strongly correlated with trends in earnings estimate revisions, according to empirical research.

Furthermore, the different grades of the Zacks Rank are applied proportionately across all stocks for which brokerage analysts provide earnings estimates for the current year. In other words, at all times, this tool maintains a balance among the five ranks it assigns.

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 NRG a Good Investment?

In terms of earnings estimate revisions for NRG, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has declined 5.5% over the past month to $6.63.

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 NRG. You can see the complete list of today's Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks here >>>>

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

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