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Is American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.'s (NYSE:AEO) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

Simply Wall St

This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.'s (NYSE:AEO), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Looking at earnings over the last twelve months, American Eagle Outfitters has a P/E ratio of 9.72. That corresponds to an earnings yield of approximately 10.3%.

View our latest analysis for American Eagle Outfitters

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for American Eagle Outfitters:

P/E of 9.72 = USD14.88 ÷ USD1.53 (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

Does American Eagle Outfitters Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (16.6) for companies in the specialty retail industry is higher than American Eagle Outfitters's P/E.

NYSE:AEO Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 31st 2020

This suggests that market participants think American Eagle Outfitters will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with American Eagle Outfitters, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

American Eagle Outfitters shrunk earnings per share by 3.0% last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 59%.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

American Eagle Outfitters's Balance Sheet

American Eagle Outfitters has net cash of US$265m. This is fairly high at 11% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.

The Verdict On American Eagle Outfitters's P/E Ratio

American Eagle Outfitters has a P/E of 9.7. That's below the average in the US market, which is 18.4. The recent drop in earnings per share would almost certainly temper expectations, the relatively strong balance sheet will allow the company time to invest in growth. If it achieves that, then there's real potential that the low P/E could eventually indicate undervaluation.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

But note: American Eagle Outfitters may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.