The shares of Ascena Retail Group, Inc. have decreased by more than -9.36% this year alone. The shares recently went up by 5.45% or $0.11 and now trades at $2.13. The shares of Align Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALGN), has jumped by 10.87% year to date as of 02/14/2018. The shares currently trade at $246.34 and have been able to report a change of 5.13% over the past one week.

The stock of Ascena Retail Group, Inc. and Align Technology, Inc. were two of the most active stocks on Wednesday. Investors seem to be very interested in what happens to the stocks of these two companies but do investors favor one over the other? We will analyze the growth, profitability, risk, valuation, and insider trends of both companies and see which one investors prefer.

**Next 5Y EPS Growth: 21.00% versus 28.68% **

When a company is able to grow consistently in terms of earnings at a high compound rate have the highest likelihood of creating value for its shareholders over time. Analysts have predicted that ASNA will grow it’s earning at a 21.00% annual rate in the next 5 years. This is in contrast to ALGN which will have a positive growth at a 28.68% annual rate. This means that the higher growth rate of ALGN implies a greater potential for capital appreciation over the years.

**Profitability and Returns**

Growth alone cannot be used to see if the company will be valuable. Shareholders will be the losers if a company invest in ventures that aren’t profitable enough to support upbeat growth. In order for us to accurately measure profitability and return, we will be using the EBITDA margin and Return on Investment (ROI), which balances the difference in capital structure. The ROI of ASNA is -41.00% while that of ALGN is 19.90%. These figures suggest that ALGN ventures generate a higher ROI than that of ASNA.

**Cash Flow **

The value of a stock is ultimately determined by the amount of cash flow that the investors have available. Over the last 12 months, ASNA’s free cash flow per share is a negative -0.56.

**Liquidity and Financial Risk**

The ability of a company to meet up with its short-term obligations and be able to clear its longer-term debts is measured using Liquidity and leverage ratios. The current ratio for ASNA is 1.40 and that of ALGN is 2.40. This implies that it is easier for ASNA to cover its immediate obligations over the next 12 months than ALGN. The debt ratio of ASNA is 1.86 compared to 0.00 for ALGN. ASNA can be able to settle its long-term debts and thus is a lower financial risk than ALGN.

**Valuation**

ASNA currently trades at a forward P/E of 13.83, a P/B of 0.50, and a P/S of 0.06 while ALGN trades at a forward P/E of 44.11, a P/B of 16.71, and a P/S of 12.90. This means that looking at the earnings, book values and sales basis, ASNA is the cheaper one. It is very obvious that earnings are the most important factors to investors, thus analysts are most likely to place their bet on the P/E.

**Analyst Price Targets and Opinions**

The mistake some people make is that they think a cheap stock has more value to it. In order to know the value of a stock, there is need to compare its current price to its likely trading price in the future. The price of ASNA is currently at a -10.5% to its one-year price target of 2.38. Looking at its rival pricing, ALGN is at a -15.71% relative to its price target of 292.27. This figure implies that over the next one year, ALGN is a better investment.

When looking at the investment recommendation on say a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being a strong buy, 3 a hold, and 5 a sell), ASNA is given a 3.30 while 1.70 placed for ALGN. This means that analysts are more bullish on the outlook for ASNA stocks.

**Insider Activity and Investor Sentiment**

Short interest or otherwise called the percentage of a stock’s tradable shares currently being shorted is another data that investors use to get a handle on sentiment. The short ratio for ASNA is 16.32 while that of ALGN is just 2.04. This means that analysts are more bullish on the forecast for ALGN stock.

**Conclusion**

The stock of Ascena Retail Group, Inc. defeats that of Align Technology, Inc. when the two are compared, with ASNA taking 3 out of the total factors that were been considered. ASNA happens to be more profitable, generates a higher ROI, has higher cash flow per share, higher liquidity and has a lower financial risk. When looking at the stock valuation, ASNA is the cheaper one on an earnings, book value and sales basis. Finally, the sentiment signal for ASNA is better on when it is viewed on short interest.