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Central Federal (NASDAQ:CFBK) shares have retraced a considerable in the last month. But plenty of shareholders will still be smiling, given that the stock is up 8.4% over the last quarter. Looking back over the last year, the stock has been a solid performer, with a gain of 17%.
All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. The implication here is that deep value investors might steer clear when expectations of a company are too high. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
Does Central Federal Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 6.93 that sentiment around Central Federal isn't particularly high. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (13.6) for companies in the mortgage industry is higher than Central Federal's P/E.
This suggests that market participants think Central Federal will underperform other companies in its industry. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
Central Federal's earnings made like a rocket, taking off 111% last year. The sweetener is that the annual five year growth rate of 154% is also impressive. With that kind of growth rate we would generally expect a high P/E ratio.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet
The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).
Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.
So What Does Central Federal's Balance Sheet Tell Us?
Since Central Federal holds net cash of US$2.2m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.
The Verdict On Central Federal's P/E Ratio
Central Federal trades on a P/E ratio of 6.9, which is below the US market average of 18.2. The net cash position gives plenty of options to the business, and the recent improvement in EPS is good to see. One might conclude that the market is a bit pessimistic, given the low P/E ratio. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about Central Federal over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 6.9 back then to 6.9 today. For those who prefer invest in growth, this stock apparently offers limited promise, but the deep value investors may find the pessimism around this stock enticing.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. We don't have analyst forecasts, but shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
But note: Central Federal 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.