The shares of Cognex Corporation have decreased by more than -5.09% this year alone. The shares recently went up by 5.22% or $2.88 and now trades at $58.05. The shares of Rent-A-Center, Inc. (NASDAQ:RCII), has slumped by -12.30% year to date as of 02/14/2018. The shares currently trade at $9.73 and have been able to report a change of -2.84% over the past one week.

The stock of Cognex Corporation and Rent-A-Center, 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: 27.40% versus 5.00%**

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 CGNX will grow it’s earning at a 27.40% annual rate in the next 5 years. This is in contrast to RCII which will have a positive growth at a 5.00% annual rate. This means that the higher growth rate of CGNX 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. CGNX has an EBITDA margin of 40.35%, this implies that the underlying business of CGNX is more profitable. The ROI of CGNX is 14.70% while that of RCII is -5.90%. These figures suggest that CGNX ventures generate a higher ROI than that of RCII.

**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, CGNX’s free cash flow per share is a positive 0.01, while that of RCII is positive 0.2.

**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 debt ratio of CGNX is 0.00 compared to 2.69 for RCII. RCII can be able to settle its long-term debts and thus is a lower financial risk than CGNX.

**Valuation**

CGNX currently trades at a forward P/E of 38.99, a P/B of 8.88, and a P/S of 14.07 while RCII trades at a forward P/E of 15.99, a P/B of 2.19, and a P/S of 0.18. This means that looking at the earnings, book values and sales basis, RCII 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 CGNX is currently at a -12.05% to its one-year price target of 66.00. Looking at its rival pricing, RCII is at a -14.95% relative to its price target of 11.44. This figure implies that over the next one year, RCII 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), CGNX is given a 2.50 while 2.60 placed for RCII. This means that analysts are more bullish on the outlook for RCII 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 CGNX is 1.31 while that of RCII is just 19.24. This means that analysts are more bullish on the forecast for CGNX stock.

**Conclusion**

The stock of Rent-A-Center, Inc. defeats that of Cognex Corporation when the two are compared, with RCII taking 6 out of the total factors that were been considered. RCII 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, RCII is the cheaper one on an earnings, book value and sales basis. Finally, the sentiment signal for RCII is better on when it is viewed on short interest.