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Passive investing in index funds can generate returns that roughly match the overall market. But if you pick the right individual stocks, you could make more than that. To wit, the AZZ Inc. (NYSE:AZZ) share price is 85% higher than it was a year ago, much better than the market return of around 48% (not including dividends) in the same period. That's a solid performance by our standards! However, the stock hasn't done so well in the longer term, with the stock only up 21% in three years.
While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
Over the last twelve months, AZZ actually shrank its EPS by 17%.
This means it's unlikely the market is judging the company based on earnings growth. Therefore, it seems likely that investors are putting more weight on metrics other than EPS, at the moment.
We are skeptical of the suggestion that the 1.2% dividend yield would entice buyers to the stock. Unfortunately AZZ's fell 21% over twelve months. So using a snapshot of key business metrics doesn't give us a good picture of why the market is bidding up the stock.
You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. If you are thinking of buying or selling AZZ stock, you should check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of AZZ, it has a TSR of 88% for the last year. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
We're pleased to report that AZZ shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 88% over one year. That's including the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 0.9%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. Given the share price momentum remains strong, it might be worth taking a closer look at the stock, lest you miss an opportunity. 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. Take risks, for example - AZZ has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.
AZZ is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.
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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