In thie piece we will review the quality ratios and quant metrics for shares of Meritage Homes Corporation (MTH). Avid investors might be interested in how the quality ratios are stacking up for the Consumer Discretionary firm.  Robert Novy-Marx, a professor at the university of Rochester, discovered that gross profitability has as much power predicting stock returns as traditional value metrics. He found that while other quality measures had some predictive power, especially on small caps and in conjunction with value measures, gross profitability generates significant excess returns as a stand alone strategy, especially on large cap stocks.The Gross profitability for Meritage Homes Corporation (MTH) is 0.188934.

Some investors may be lamenting the fact that they have not taken full advantage of the long bull run. There are plenty of pundits that are calling for a sharp stock market decline, but there are also many who believe that the ceiling has been raised and there is much more room for stocks to go higher. Getting into the market at these levels may be holding some investors back from jumping into the fray, and nobody can be sure which way the momentum will swing as we near the end of the year. The next round of company earnings reports should provide some good information about future prospects. Investors will be closely watching to see which sectors are running at full speed and which ones are lagging. 

Professor Novy-Marx’s key insight was that you don’t need to go further down the income statement as these numbers may get manipulated with accounting tricks. To identify really profitable firms, one should look at the top line, not the bottom line. In one of his papers, Novy-Marx compares gross profitability to the other most famous strategies such as Greenblatt magic formula, Piortoski F-Score, etc.

Even though the stock market has been cranking along and touching record highs, there are bound to be some rough patches in the near future. Some investors may actually welcome a pullback in order to scoop up some stocks at a relative discount. Investors who are on top of things are most likely ready to spring when the next big buying opportunity pops up. Being prepared for a buying opportunity can make the process much easier when the time comes. As investors look ahead to the next round of company earnings reports, the focus may gravitate to those companies that have positioned themselves for sustained future growth. Many investors will be closely monitoring which companies outperform by the largest margin after earnings results are released.

Total Asset Growth

In their 2008 paper, professors Cooper, Gulen and Schill provided evidence that a firm’s assets growth rates are strong predictors of future abnormal returns.

“The findings suggest that corporate events associated with asset expansion (i.e., acquisitions, public equity offerings, public debt offerings, and bank loan initiations) tend to be followed by periods of abnormally low returns, whereas events associated with asset contraction (i.e., spin-offs, share repurchases, debt prepayments, and dividend initiations) tend to be followed by periods of abnormally high returns.” – Cooper, Gulen & Shill in Asset Growth and the Cross-Section of Stock Returns. In a study on US data during the period 1967-2007, they find that:

– A hedge portfolio rebalanced annually that is long (short) the stocks of companies with the lowest (highest) percentage growth in total assets over the previous 12 months generates an average annual return of 22%.
– This asset growth effect is stronger for small capitalization stocks, but is still substantial for large capitalization stocks.
– The effect is strongest in the month of January.
– Asset growth rate retains large explanatory power for future stock returns after accounting for firm size, book-to-market ratio and momentum. In fact the asset growth effect is at least as powerful in explaining returns as these other widely used factors.

We calculate asset growth as follows:

Total Asset Growth = (Total AssetsTotal Assets y-1) − 1. Meritage Homes Corporation (MTH) has a total asset growth number of 0.035131.

Net Debt to Market Cap

This ratio gives a sense of how much debt a company has relative to its market value. Companies with high debt levels compared to their peers can be volatile. We calculate it as follows:

Net Debt to Market Cap = (Total Debt−Cash and ST Investments) / Market Cap

Meritage Homes Corporation (MTH) has a net debt to market cap ratio of 0.174637.

Altman Z Score

Meritage Homes Corporation (MTH) has an Altman Z score of 3.758541. The Z-Score for predicting bankruptcy was published in 1968 by Edward I. Altman, who was assistant professor of finance at New York University at that time. It measures the financial health of a company based on a set of income and balance sheet values. The Altman Z-Score predicts the probability that a firm will go bankrupt within 2 years. In its initial test, the Altman Z-Score was found to be 72% accurate in predicting bankruptcy two years before the event. In a series of subsequent tests, the model was found to be approximately 80%–90% accurate in predicting bankruptcy one year before the event

Atman built the model by applying the statistical method of discriminant analysis to a dataset of publicly held manufacturers. Since then he has published new versions based on other datasets for private manufacturing (Z’-Score), non-manufacturing, service companies and companies in emerging markets. (Z”-Score)

Please also note that the original dataset used was quite small and consisted of only 66 firms of which half filed for bankruptcy. All companies were manufacturers and small firms (total assets less than $1m) were removed.

Making the tough buy or sell portfolio decisions is a typical challenge that most investors will eventually face. Trying to separate fact from emotion when making these decisions can be hard. It may be very difficult to part ways with a previously prized stock. Investors may have a checklist that includes certain criteria for portfolio evaluation purposes. When certain stocks no longer meet the guidelines, they may need to be cut loose. This is often easier said than done, especially when a stock has provided a large boost to the portfolio in the past. Investors who are able to successfully keep emotional attachment out of the stock picking process may give themselves a leg up compared to those who are not.  

VC3

Value Composite Three (VC3) is another adaptation of O’Shaughnessy’s value composite but here he combines the factors used in VC1 with buyback yield. This factor is interesting for investors who’re looking for stocks with the best value characteristics, but are indifferent to whether these companies pay a dividend.

VC3 is the combination of the following factors:

Price-to-Book
Price-to-Earnings
Price-to-Sales
EBITDA/EV
Price-to-Cash flow
Buyback Yield

As with the VC1 and VC2, companies are put into groups from 1 to 100 for each ratio and the individual scores are summed up. This total score is then put into groups again from 1 to 100. 1 is cheap, 100 is expensive.

The scorecard also displays variants of the VC3 where the score is calculated for the selected company compared to peer companies in the same industry, industry group or sector.

Please note that we use Book-to-Market instead of P/B since it allows a more accurate sorting compared to P/B. Stocks with a high B/M show up at the top of the list, stocks with negative B/M are at the bottom of the list. For the same reason we use Earnings-to-Price instead of Price-to-Earnings and Cash flow-to-price instead instead of Price-to-cash flow.

Also important is that we always make sure that companies with the same score get added to the same percentile. For stock universes where the number of stocks is less than 100, we make sure that the stocks are still allocated to percentiles from 0 to 100 instead of 0 to the total number of stocks. This is particularly relevant for the industry, industry group or sector variants where if additional filters are used, the number of stocks often drops below 100.

Meritage Homes Corporation (MTH) has a VC3 of 2.

When it comes to trading stocks, even veteran investors are prone to making mistakes. Investors will often get bombarded with stock tips touting the next breakout star. Following these tips without fully looking into the situation can wind up being a huge mistake. If even one person knows about the next big stock, chances are many other people already do as well. Getting in too late on a stock that has already made a move can leave investors wondering what went wrong. Taking the time to properly research any stock investment may be a good way to eliminate costly impulse buys. Just because a stock has been running hot doesn’t mean it will continue to go higher in the future.