The shares of KLA-Tencor Corporation have decreased by more than -8.71% this year alone. The shares recently went down by -5.17% or -$5.23 and now trades at $95.92. The shares of Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE:NSC), has jumped by 14.49% year to date as of 12/04/2018. The shares currently trade at $165.89 and have been able to report a change of 1.90% over the past one week.

The stock of KLA-Tencor Corporation and Norfolk Southern Corporation were two of the most active stocks on Tuesday. 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: 9.94% versus 17.17%**

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 KLAC will grow it’s earning at a 9.94% annual rate in the next 5 years. This is in contrast to NSC which will have a positive growth at a 17.17% annual rate. This means that the higher growth rate of NSC 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. KLAC has an EBITDA margin of 40.06%, this implies that the underlying business of NSC is more profitable. The ROI of KLAC is 33.00% while that of NSC is 9.60%. These figures suggest that KLAC ventures generate a higher ROI than that of NSC.

**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, KLAC’s free cash flow per share is a positive 5.73, while that of NSC is positive 3.23.

**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 KLAC is 3.40 and that of NSC is 0.90. This implies that it is easier for KLAC to cover its immediate obligations over the next 12 months than NSC. The debt ratio of KLAC is 0.00 compared to 0.72 for NSC. NSC can be able to settle its long-term debts and thus is a lower financial risk than KLAC.

**Valuation**

KLAC currently trades at a forward P/E of 10.52, a P/B of 9.50, and a P/S of 3.58 while NSC trades at a forward P/E of 16.10, a P/B of 2.95, and a P/S of 4.07. This means that looking at the earnings, book values and sales basis, KLAC 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 KLAC is currently at a -20.48% to its one-year price target of 120.62. Looking at its rival pricing, NSC is at a -12.08% relative to its price target of 188.68.

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), KLAC is given a 2.00 while 2.30 placed for NSC. This means that analysts are more bullish on the outlook for NSC 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 KLAC is 2.91 while that of NSC is just 2.92. This means that analysts are more bullish on the forecast for KLAC stock.

Conclusion

The stock of Norfolk Southern Corporation defeats that of KLA-Tencor Corporation when the two are compared, with NSC taking 4 out of the total factors that were been considered. NSC 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, NSC is the cheaper one on an earnings, book value and sales basis. Finally, the sentiment signal for NSC is better on when it is viewed on short interest.