Thanks in no small measure to Vanguard founder Jack Bogle, it's easy buy a low cost index fund, which should provide the average market return. But you can make superior returns by picking better-than average stocks. To wit, The AES Corporation (NYSE:AES) shares are up 32% in three years, besting the market return. The bad news is that the share price seems to lack positive momentum recently, since it has dropped 16% in the last year.
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).
During three years of share price growth, AES moved from a loss to profitability. That would generally be considered a positive, so we'd expect the share price to be up.
The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. This free interactive report on AES's earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, AES's TSR for the last 3 years was 48%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
While the broader market gained around 9.7% in the last year, AES shareholders lost 13% (even including dividends) . Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 6.0%, each year, over five years. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 4 warning signs with AES (at least 1 which can't be ignored) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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