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Is Quest Diagnostics (DGX) a Great Stock for Value Investors?

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 Quest Diagnostics Inc. DGX 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, Quest Diagnostics has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 16.8, as you can see in the chart below:

This level actually compares pretty favorably with the market at large, as the PE ratio for the S&P 500 stands at about 20.5. If we focus on the long-term PE trend, Quest Diagnostics’ current PE level puts it above its midpoint over the past five years, with the number having fallen rapidly over the past few months.

Further, the stock’s PE also compares favorably with the broader industry’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 18.1. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.

We should also point out that Quest Diagnostics has a forward PE  ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of just 22.1, so it is fair to say that a slightly more value-oriented path may be ahead for Quest Diagnostics stock in the near term too .

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, Quest Diagnostics has a P/S ratio of about 1.7. This is significantly lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.2x right now. Also, as we can see in the chart below, this is well below the highs for this stock in particular over the past few years.

If anything, DGX is towards the higher end of its range in the time period from a P/S metric, which suggests that the company’s stock price has already appreciated to some degree, relative to its sales.

Broad Value Outlook

In aggregate, Quest Diagnostics currently has a Value Score of A, putting it into the top 20% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes Quest Diagnostics a solid choice for value investors, and some of its other key metrics make this pretty clear too.

What About the Stock Overall?

Though Quest Diagnostics 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 C. This gives DGX a Zacks VGM score — or its overarching fundamental grade — of A. (You can read more about the Zacks Style Scores here here >>)

Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been mixed at best. The current quarter has seen six estimates go higher in the past sixty days compared to two lower, while the full year estimate has seen thirteen up in the same time period.

This has had just a small impact on the consensus estimate though as the current quarter consensus estimate has decreased by 1.4% in the past two months, while the full year estimate has inched upper by 0.2%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:

This somewhat mixed trend is why the stock has just a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) and why we are looking for in-line performance from the company in the near term.

Bottom Line

Quest Diagnostics is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. Furthermore, a strong industry rank (among Top 22% of more than 250 industries) instills investor confidence. However, over the past two years, the broader industry has clearly underperformed the markets, as you can see below:

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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