Zacks #1 Rank Top Performers: Almost Family, Life Partners Holdings, Avon Products, Penn Virginia and LHC Group

Zacks.com announces the latest list of top performing Zacks #1 Rank (strong buy) stocks. The stocks on the prestigious list with the highest returns last week were Almost Family, Inc. (NASDAQ: AFAM), Life Partners Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: LPHI), Avon Products, Inc. (NYSE: AVP), Penn Virginia Corporation (NYSE: PVA) and LHC Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: LHCG). Each of these stocks easily outperformed the S&P 500.

Stocks ranked #1 (Strong Buy) by Zacks have produced an average annual return of +30% since inception in 1988. During the 2000-2002 bear market, Zacks #1 Rank stocks gained 43.8% while the S&P 500 tumbled 37.6%. To learn more about the Zacks Rank, go to http://at.zacks.com/?id=3172.

Here is a synopsis of the last weeks best performing Zacks #1 Rank stocks.

Almost Family, Inc. (NASDAQ: AFAM) was able to gain 5.2% during a very difficult week, which was enough to make this nursing services provider a top-performing Zacks #1 Rank. AFAMs industry is doing rather well in an otherwise difficult market. In its second quarter report from August, the company announced that net service revenues jumped 50% to $48.7 million from last year, while its earnings per share surprised the consensus by more than 31%. The company has beaten or met Wall Streets earnings estimates for several consecutive quarters.

Over the past 2 months, earnings estimates for this year and next are up 25.2% and 31%, respectively. Furthermore, analysts expect next years profit to improve approximately 19.6% from this year.

Life Partners Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: LPHI) remains on the Zacks #1 Rank Top Performers List as shares advanced 4.4% for the week ended Sep 26. The earnings estimate for this fiscal year, ending February 2009, has moved higher by 5% over the past 2 months.

Earlier this month, LPHI announced that it expects record earnings for its fiscal second quarter. Net earnings are expected to jump 56% in the quarter, while revenues should surge 47%. The company, which is a leader in the secondary market for life insurance, said its announcement shows the popularity of alternative investments during this time of market uncertainty.

Avon Products, Inc. (NYSE: AVP) has watched analysts earnings estimates for this year rise by 4.6% over the past 3 months. Meanwhile, expectations for next year moved forward more than 5% in that timeframe. Last week, shares of the company were able to move higher by approximately 2.9%.

AVP has eclipsed or matched Wall Streets earnings estimates over the past 4 quarters, putting together an average surprise of 23%. In its second-quarter report from late July, the company announced EPS that bettered the consensus by more than 20% while total revenue advanced 17% to $2.7 billion. The company attributed the quarters results to the strength of its geographic portfolio and the momentum of its turnaround plan.

Penn Virginia Corporation (NYSE: PVA), an independent natural gas and oil company, made the Zacks #1 Rank Top Performers List last week with a gain of 2.1%. Over the past 2 months, earnings estimates for this year are up 10.3%, while expectations for next year moved higher 6%. At the moment, analysts expect year-over-year profit growth of approximately 17.5% next year.

In its second quarter, which was reported in August, PVA reported adjusted net income of $1, which bettered the consensus by more than 28%. It also marked a significant year-over-year advance. Other highlights in the quarter included a quarterly record for oil and gas production. Looking forward, the company stated that it expects continued growth in all operating segments this year, and believes that it has the proper strategies in place in each business segment and the financial strength to achieve the growth.

LHC Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: LHCG) announced last week that it entered into a joint venture with Cape Fear Valley Health System in Fayetteville, North Carolina to provide home nursing and hospice services. This represents the companys initial entry into the state, and expands its footprint to 14 states. LHCG is one of the largest providers of home nursing services in the country.

Shares of the company gained almost 2.1% last week, which was enough to make it a top-performing Zacks #1 Rank company during a tough market. Over the past 2 months, earnings estimates for this year are up 6% while next years expectation moved higher 4.9%. The companys second quarter, announced in July, included earnings per share of 35 cents that beat the consensus by almost 13% while net service revenue advanced 27.7%. LHCG also increased its guidance for full-year 2008.

About the Zacks Rank

Since 1988, the Zacks Rank has proven that "Earnings estimate revisions are the most powerful force impacting stock prices." Since inception in 1988, #1 Rank stocks have generated an average annual return of +30%. During the 2000-2002 bear market, Zacks #1 Rank stocks gained +43.8%, while the S&P 500 tumbled -37.6%. Also note that the Zacks Rank system has just as many Strong Sell recommendations (Rank #5) as Strong Buy recommendations (Rank #1). Since 1988, Zacks Rank #5 stocks have underperformed the S&P 500 by 81% annually (+2 % vs. +11%). Thus, the Zacks Rank system allows investors to truly manage portfolio trading effectively.

To view the current Zacks #1 Rank List and to see additional Zacks Rank resources, go to http://at.zacks.com/?id=3173.

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Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

Disclaimer: Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investors should always research companies and securities before making any investments. Nothing herein should be construed as an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any security.

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