The goal of this article is to teach you how to use price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:JBHT), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. J.B. Hunt Transport Services has a price to earnings ratio of 20.65, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 4.8%.
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How Do I Calculate J.B. Hunt Transport Services's Price To Earnings Ratio?
The formula for price to earnings is:
Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)
Or for J.B. Hunt Transport Services:
P/E of 20.65 = $92.93 ÷ $4.5 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 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. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.'
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
J.B. Hunt Transport Services shrunk earnings per share by 30% over the last year. But over the longer term (5 years) earnings per share have increased by 9.4%.
How Does J.B. Hunt Transport Services's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. The image below shows that J.B. Hunt Transport Services has a higher P/E than the average (17.5) P/E for companies in the transportation industry.
J.B. Hunt Transport Services's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.
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.
So What Does J.B. Hunt Transport Services's Balance Sheet Tell Us?
J.B. Hunt Transport Services has net debt worth 13% of its market capitalization. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.
The Bottom Line On J.B. Hunt Transport Services's P/E Ratio
J.B. Hunt Transport Services has a P/E of 20.7. That's higher than the average in the US market, which is 17.8. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it's safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years.
When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
You might be able to find a better buy than J.B. Hunt Transport Services. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).
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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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. Thank you for reading.