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Buy These 5 Low Leverage Stocks to Avoid Portfolio Losses

Debt financing is nothing new in the world of investment and only a fortunate few can avoid it. Most corporates resort to debt financing to ensure smooth business operations. This is because companies do not have unlimited funds and they need to boost their financial resources from time to time to expand operations.

In fact, given the easy availability and affordability of debt compared to equity, in the majority of matured economies, the debt market is bigger than the equity market in terms of market capitalization. America – the richest economy in the world – is the biggest borrower too.

However, resorting to debt is still considered a taboo as it carries the burden of interest payments.

In this context, it is imperative to note that the debt scenario in the U.S. is quite disturbing at this moment. Huge spending on wars, big tax cuts and stimulating economic programs have all added to the nation’s burden over the years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the debt held by the public will rise to 150% of the economy’s GDP in 2047 from 77% currently.

Nevertheless, this should not dissuade investors from investing in stocks as debt has been a part of the U.S. economy since its foundation. What investors need to do is to follow a prudent investment strategy and choose stocks that are burdened with lesser amount of debt.

Herein comes the significance of financial leverage ratio. This ratio measures the extent of financial leverage, or the extent of debt a company bears. Several leverage ratios have been developed historically for this purpose, with debt-to-equity ratio being the most popular among them.

Analyzing Debt-to-Equity

Debt-to-Equity Ratio = Total Liabilities/Shareholders’ Equity

This metric is a liquidity ratio that indicates the amount of financial risk a company bears. A lower debt-to-equity ratio implies a more financially stable business, thereby making it a more worthy investment opportunity.

As debt-ridden companies are more prone to bankruptcy in times of financial crisis, the very foundation of making safe investment is to avoid high-leverage stocks.

With the market gearing up for second-quarter releases, investors tend to get attracted to stocks exhibiting solid earnings growth, overlooking the debt on their balance sheet. Therefore to avoid huge losses we would urge investors to go for stocks with low debt-to-equity ratio.

The Winning Strategy

Considering the aforementioned discussion, it is imperative for a sensible investor to choose stocks that have a low debt-to-equity ratio.

However, an investment strategy based solely on the debt-to-equity ratio might not fetch the desired outcome. To choose stocks that have the potential to give you steady returns, we have expanded our screening criteria.

Here are the other parameters:

Debt/Equity less than X-Industry Median: Stocks that are less leveraged than their industry peers.

Current Price greater than or equal to 10: The stocks must be trading at a minimum of $10 or above.

Average 20-day Volume greater than or equal to 50000: A substantial trading volume ensures that the stock is easily tradable.

Percentage Change in EPS F(0)/F(-1) greater than X-Industry Median: Earnings growth adds to optimism, leading to a stock’s price appreciation.

Estimated One-Year EPS Growth F(1)/F(0) greater than 5: This shows earnings growth expectation.

Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or #2 (Buy): No matter whether market conditions are good or bad, stocks with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 have a proven history of success.

VGMScore of A or B: Our research shows that stocks with a VGM Score of ‘A’ or ‘B’ when combined with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 offer the best upside potential.

Excluding stocks that have a negative or a zero debt-to-equity ratio, here are five of the 17 stocks that made it through the screen.

Louisiana-Pacific Corporation LPX: It manufactures and sells building products primarily for use in new home construction, repair and remodeling, and outdoor structures, as well as light industrial and commercial construction. The company carries a Zacks Rank #1 and delivered an average positive earnings surprise of 5.4% in the trailing four quarters.

Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. HII: This largest ship builder in the U.S. engages in designing, building, overhauling, and repairing of ships. It carries a Zacks Rank #2 and came up with an average positive earnings surprise of 3% in the trailing four quarters.

Anthem, Inc. ANTM: This corporation operates as a health benefits company in the U.S. It delivered an average positive earnings surprise of 8.4% in the trailing four quarters and carries a Zacks Rank #1. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Eversource Energy ES: It is engaged in transmission and distribution of electricity and natural gas. The company carries a Zacks Rank #2 and has a long-term earnings growth rate of 5.3%.

Vodafone Group PLC VOD: It is the world's largest international mobile communications firm. It primarily operates digital and analog cellular telephone networks of Vodafone. It carries a Zacks Rank #2 and has a long-term earnings growth rate of 6%.

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Disclosure: Officers, directors and/or employees of Zacks Investment Research may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. An affiliated investment advisory firm may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material.

Disclosure: Performance information for Zacks’ portfolios and strategies are available at: https://www.zacks.com/performance.

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Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. (HII): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Louisiana-Pacific Corporation (LPX): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Anthem, Inc. (ANTM): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Vodafone Group PLC (VOD): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Eversource Energy (ES): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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