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Where are Analysts Most Optimistic with Their S&P 500 Stock Ratings in Q1?

Earnings

By John Butters  |  March 23, 2018

With the end of the first quarter approaching, where are analysts most optimistic and pessimistic in terms of their ratings on stocks in the S&P 500? How have their views changed during the quarter?

Overall, there are 11,094 ratings on stocks in the S&P 500. Of these 11,094 ratings, 52.2% are Buy ratings, 42.9% are Hold ratings, and 4.9% are Sell ratings.

At the sector level, analysts are most optimistic on the Information Technology (60%), Health Care (59%), and Energy (59%) sectors, as these three sectors have highest percentages of Buy ratings.

 percentage of buy hold and sell ratings

On the other hand, analysts are most pessimistic on the Telecom Services (33%) and Utilities (39%) sectors, as these two sectors have the lowest percentages of Buy ratings. The Telecom Services sector also has the highest percentage of Hold ratings (66%), while the Utilities sector also has the highest percentage of Sell ratings (9%).

Company-Level Breakdown

At the company level, the 10 stocks in the S&P 500 with the highest percentages of Buy ratings and the highest percentages of Sell ratings are listed below.

Highest % of Buy Ratings in S&P 500: Top 10 (Source: FactSet)

COMPANY

BUY

HOLD

SELL

TOTAL

Delta Air Lines, Inc.

100%

0%

0%

100%

UnitedHealth Group Incorporated

96%

0%

4%

100%

Amazon.com, Inc.

96%

4%

0%

100%

Microchip Technology Inc.

95%

5%

0%

100%

Broadcom Limited

94%

6%

0%

100%

Visa Inc. Class A

92%

8%

0%

100%

Mastercard Incorporated Class A

92%

8%

0%

100%

Equinix, Inc.

92%

8%

0%

100%

Applied Materials, Inc.

92%

8%

0%

100%

American Tower Corporation

92%

8%

0%

100%

 

Highest % of Sell Ratings in S&P 500: Top 10 (Source: FactSet)

COMPANY

BUY

HOLD

SELL

TOTAL

News Corporation Class B

0%

50%

50%

100%

Torchmark Corporation

0%

55%

45%

100%

Consolidated Edison, Inc.

6%

50%

44%

100%

Under Armour, Inc. Class C

21%

44%

35%

100%

Under Armour, Inc. Class A

20%

46%

34%

100%

VeriSign, Inc.

0%

67%

33%

100%

Helmerich & Payne, Inc.

16%

53%

31%

100%

Public Storage

6%

63%

31%

100%

Campbell Soup Company

29%

41%

29%

100%

Southern Company

29%

43%

29%

100%

 

Since December 31, the total number of ratings on S&P 500 companies has decreased by 0.5% (to 11,094 from 11,148).

The number of Buy ratings has increased by 5.0% (to 5791 from 5516) since December 31. All 11 sectors have witnessed an increase in Buy ratings, led by the Telecom Services (+18%), Utilities (+13%), and Consumer Staples (+11%) sectors. 

The number of Hold ratings has decreased by 5.7% (to 4763 from 5049) during this period. Ten of the 11 sectors have recorded a decrease in Hold ratings, led by the Energy (-10%) and Consumer Discretionary (-9%) sectors. 

The number of Sell ratings has decreased by 7.4% (to 540 from 583) since the start of the quarter. Eight of the 11 sectors have recorded a decrease in Sell ratings, led by the Telecom Services (-67%), Real Estate (-24%), and Energy (-21%) sectors. 

Download the latest Earnings Insight

John Butters

Senior Earnings Analyst

John’s weekly research report, Earnings Insight provides analysis and commentary on trends in corporate earnings data for the S&P 500, including revisions to estimates, year-over-year growth, performance relative to expectations, and valuations. He is a widely used source for the media and has appeared on CNBC, Fox Business News, and the Business News Network. In addition, he has been cited by numerous print and online publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The New York Times, MarketWatch, and Yahoo! Finance.

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