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Looking for a Growth Stock? 3 Reasons Why Atmos (ATO) is a Solid Choice

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Growth stocks are attractive to many investors, as above-average financial growth helps these stocks easily grab the market's attention and produce exceptional returns. But finding a great growth stock is not easy at all.

In addition to volatility, these stocks carry above-average risk by their very nature. Also, one could end up losing from a stock whose growth story is actually over or nearing its end.

However, it's pretty easy to find cutting-edge growth stocks with the help of the Zacks Growth Style Score (part of the Zacks Style Scores system), which looks beyond the traditional growth attributes to analyze a company's real growth prospects.

Atmos Energy (ATO) is one such stock that our proprietary system currently recommends. The company not only has a favorable Growth Score, but also carries a top Zacks Rank.

Studies have shown that stocks with the best growth features consistently outperform the market. And for stocks that have a combination of a Growth Score of A or B and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy), returns are even better.

While there are numerous reasons why the stock of this natural gas utility is a great growth pick right now, we have highlighted three of the most important factors below:

Earnings Growth

Arguably nothing is more important than earnings growth, as surging profit levels is what most investors are after. For growth investors, double-digit earnings growth is highly preferable, as it is often perceived as an indication of strong prospects (and stock price gains) for the company under consideration.

While the historical EPS growth rate for Atmos is 9%, investors should actually focus on the projected growth. The company's EPS is expected to grow 7.7% this year, crushing the industry average, which calls for EPS growth of 5.5%.

Cash Flow Growth

While cash is the lifeblood of any business, higher-than-average cash flow growth is more important and beneficial for growth-oriented companies than for mature companies. That's because, growth in cash flow enables these companies to expand their businesses without depending on expensive outside funds.

Right now, year-over-year cash flow growth for Atmos is 13.3%, which is higher than many of its peers. In fact, the rate compares to the industry average of 7.4%.

While investors should actually consider the current cash flow growth, it's worth taking a look at the historical rate too for putting the current reading into proper perspective. The company's annualized cash flow growth rate has been 12.5% over the past 3-5 years versus the industry average of 9.3%.

Promising Earnings Estimate Revisions

Beyond the metrics outlined above, investors should consider the trend in earnings estimate revisions. A positive trend is a plus here. Empirical research shows that there is a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock price movements.

The current-year earnings estimates for Atmos have been revising upward. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has surged 0.9% over the past month.

Bottom Line

While the overall earnings estimate revisions have made Atmos a Zacks Rank #2 stock, it has earned itself a Growth Score of B based on a number of factors, including the ones discussed above.

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

This combination indicates that Atmos is a potential outperformer and a solid choice for growth investors.


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