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Is Wells Fargo (WFC) a Buy as Wall Street Analysts Look Optimistic?

Investors often turn to recommendations made by Wall Street analysts before making a Buy, Sell, or Hold decision about a stock. While media reports about rating changes by these brokerage-firm employed (or sell-side) analysts often affect a stock's price, do they really matter?

Before we discuss the reliability of brokerage recommendations and how to use them to your advantage, let's see what these Wall Street heavyweights think about Wells Fargo (WFC).

Wells Fargo currently has an average brokerage recommendation (ABR) of 1.90, on a scale of 1 to 5 (Strong Buy to Strong Sell), calculated based on the actual recommendations (Buy, Hold, Sell, etc.) made by 15 brokerage firms. An ABR of 1.90 approximates between Strong Buy and Buy.

Of the 15 recommendations that derive the current ABR, seven are Strong Buy and two are Buy. Strong Buy and Buy respectively account for 46.7% and 13.3% of all recommendations.

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Brokerage Recommendation Trends for WFC

Broker Rating Breakdown Chart for WFC
Broker Rating Breakdown Chart for WFC



Check price target & stock forecast for Wells Fargo here>>>

While the ABR calls for buying Wells Fargo, 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.

Are you wondering why? The vested interest of brokerage firms in a stock they cover often results in a strong positive bias of their analysts in rating it. Our research shows that for every "Strong Sell" recommendation, brokerage firms assign five "Strong Buy" recommendations.

In other words, their interests aren't always aligned with retail investors, rarely indicating where the price of a stock could actually be heading. Therefore, the best use of this information could be validating your own research or an indicator that has proven to be highly successful in predicting a stock's price movement.

With an impressive externally audited track record, our proprietary stock rating tool, the Zacks Rank, which classifies stocks into five groups, ranging from Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) to Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell), is a reliable indicator of a stock's near -term price performance. So, validating the Zacks Rank with ABR could go a long way in making a profitable investment decision.

Zacks Rank Should Not Be Confused With ABR

In spite of the fact that Zacks Rank and ABR both appear on a scale from 1 to 5, they are two completely different measures.

The ABR is calculated solely based on brokerage recommendations and is typically displayed with decimals (example: 1.28). In contrast, the Zacks Rank is a quantitative model allowing investors 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.

There is also a key difference between the ABR and Zacks Rank when it comes to freshness. When you look at the ABR, it may not be up-to-date. Nonetheless, since brokerage analysts constantly revise their earnings estimates to reflect changing business trends, and their actions get reflected in the Zacks Rank quickly enough, it is always timely in predicting future stock prices.

Is WFC a Good Investment?

In terms of earnings estimate revisions for Wells Fargo, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has remained unchanged over the past month at $4.81.

Analysts' steady views regarding the company's earnings prospects, as indicated by an unchanged consensus estimate, could be a legitimate reason for the stock to perform in line with the broader market 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 #3 (Hold) for Wells Fargo. You can see the complete list of today's Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks here >>>>

It may therefore be prudent to be a little cautious with the Buy-equivalent ABR for Wells Fargo.

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