The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights Veritiv, Caterpillar, Arista Networks, First Financial Bancorp and WhiteHorse Finance

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – December 23, 2022 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Veritiv Corp. VRTV, Caterpillar Inc.’s CAT, Arista Networks Inc. ANET, First Financial Bancorp. FFBC and WhiteHorse Finance Inc. WHF.

Here are highlights from Thursday’s Analyst Blog:

Top 5 Momentum Stocks to Gain from a Possible Santa Rally

Wall Street is heading toward completing a terrible 2022. Year to date, the three major stock indexes — the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite — have tumbled 8.2%, 18.6% and 31.6%, respectively. Major indexes are set to terminate a three-year winning streak and record the worst yearly performance since 2008.

Market participants are busy analyzing whether a year-end rally in Wall Street — popularly known as Santa Claus rally — will materialize this year. U.S. stock markets tumbled in the last two weeks, although the Fed reduced the magnitude of its interest rate hike in the December FOMC meeting. However, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s hawkish comments for next year unnerved investors.

Recent Positives

Despite headwinds, we believe a Santa Clause rally is likely this year. Peak inflation seems behind us. Less-than-expected inflation rates in October and November with respect to several measures have clearly indicated this.

On Dec 21, the Conference Board reported that Consumer Confidence in December came in at 108.3, marking its highest reading since April. The consensus estimate was 101.2. November’s data was revised upward to 101.4 from 100.2 reported earlier. A similar type of metric, the preliminary data of consumer sentiment  for December reported by the University of Michigan, also showed the same type of results.

Consumers’ 12-month inflation expectations fell to 6.7% in December from 7.1% last month, marking the lowest level since September. The present situation index, based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions, rose to 147.2 in December from 138.3 last month.

The expectations index, based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions, increased to 82.4 in December from 76.7 in November.

In fact, economic indicators like a tepid housing sector, declining commodity prices (except food and energy), growing accumulation of inventories on the part of manufacturers and retailers, a gradual slowdown of the ISM manufacturing PMI and retail sales along with a decline in the job openings rate are all pointing to the cooling down of the U.S. economy.

For this reason, the Fed may loosen its monetary tightening in 2023. The U.S. stock market is highly oversold. Stocks of several corporate behemoths are currently available at a lucrative valuation. The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite – have corrected significantly in December plummeting 3.5%, 4.9% and 6.6%, respectively. Therefore, at least a pullback rally at the year-end cannot be ruled out.

Stock Selection Process

Momentum investing calls for the continued appraisal of stocks, ensuring that an investor does not pick a beaten-down name or overlook a thriving one. Momentum investors buy high on anticipation that a stock will only ascend in the short to intermediate term. At this stage, momentum stocks with a favorable Zacks Rank are likely to become an ideal combination of investments.

We have narrowed our search to five momentum stocks that have solid upside left for December. Each of our picks carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and has a Momentum Score of A.  You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Veritiv Corp. is engaged in offering North American business-to-business distribution solutions. VRTV provides packaging, print and print management, publishing, supply-chain, facility and logistics solutions that span the entire lifecycle of core business operations. VRTV’s customers vary across a number of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, retail and more.

Veritiv has an expected earnings growth rate of 48.2% for the current quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-quarter earnings has improved 8.4% over the last seven days.

Caterpillar Inc.’s revenues and earnings grew year over year for seven straight quarters thanks to its cost-saving actions, strong end-market demand and pricing actions that offset the impact of the ongoing supply-chain snarls and cost pressures. We expect CAT’s adjusted earnings per share for 2022 to grow 29.2%, while revenues are predicted to rise 13.5%.

The Construction Industries space is expected to benefit from rising construction activities in the United States and other parts of the world. Backed by demand for commodities fueled by the energy-transition trend, a thriving mining sector will aid the Resource Industries segment. CAT’s dividend yield and payout ratio are higher than its peers. A strong liquidity position, investments in expanding services and digital initiatives should help Caterpillar deliver outsized returns.

Caterpillar has an expected earnings growth rate of 47.2% for the current quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-quarter earnings improved 0.3% over the last seven days.

Arista Networks Inc. develops markets and sells cloud networking solutions in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific. ANET benefits from the expanding cloud networking market, driven by strong demand for scalable infrastructure. The company recently joined the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association.

Arista Networks continues to gain from solid momentum and diversification across its top verticals and product lines. It is well-poised for growth in the data-driven cloud networking business, with proactive platforms and predictive operations. ANET introduced an enterprise-grade Software-as-a-Service offering for its flagship CloudVision platform.

Arista Networks has an expected earnings growth rate of 47.6% for the current quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-quarter earnings improved 1.3% over the last 60 days.

First Financial Bancorp. operates as the bank holding company for First Financial Bank that provides commercial banking and related services to individuals and businesses in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois.

FFBC accepts various deposit products, such as interest-bearing and noninterest-bearing accounts, time deposits, and cash management services for commercial customers. FFBC also provides real estate loans secured by residential property, such as one to four family residential housing units or commercial property comprising owner-occupied and investor income-producing real estate consisting of apartments, shopping centers, or office buildings.

First Financial has an expected earnings growth rate of 17.2% for the current quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-quarter earnings improved 1.5% over the last 30 days.

WhiteHorse Finance Inc. is a business development company focused on originating loans to privately held small-cap companies across a broad range of industries. WHF specializes in originating senior secured loans, lower middle market, growth capital industries. It prefers to invest in the United States. WHF typically invests between $5 million to $25 million in companies having an enterprise value between $50 million and $350 million.

WhiteHorse Finance has an expected earnings growth rate of 33.3% for the current quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-quarter earnings improved 2.3% over the last 30 days.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit https://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) : Free Stock Analysis Report

First Financial Bancorp. (FFBC) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Veritiv Corporation (VRTV) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Arista Networks, Inc. (ANET) : Free Stock Analysis Report

WhiteHorse Finance, Inc. (WHF) : Free Stock Analysis Report

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